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News shocker: Now, politicians fudge on Twitter 2

April 30, 2010 |  5:42 pm

Eric-cantor A common complaint from people getting started with Twitter's short messaging service is that its 140-character limit is too constraining.

Apparently it's flexible enough for some politicians to use as a vehicle including some fibs and misleading statements. A worthy reminder to news consumers about swallowing everything.

FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan watchdog, has begun combing through the public tweets of accounts from verified politicians. After assessing their accuracy, some of the results aren't pretty.

The organization's analyses are much longer than 140 characters, but the conclusions are blunt. So what has FactCheck.org found?

Let's start with the Democratic National Committee's dubious blip from last week:

"While the President spoke today about Wall St reform, GOP senators took checks from Wall St lobbyists."

A quick dissection, courtesy of the analysts -- how many "GOP senators" took checks? One. Was the money connected to Wall Street? Maybe, but it's not clear.

Four days later, the Republican National Committee matched its opponents with an equally misleading tweet about economists agreeing that Obama's stimulus package is an "epic fail." (Yes, the RNC used the words "epic fail.")

In reality, some of the 68 members affiliated with the same organization, the National Assn. for Business Economics, who were polled said the stimulus wasn't affecting employment in their industries. And they didn't all agree.

"Spreading disinformation via Twitter is thoroughly bipartisan," writes co-authors Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson about the phenomenon, which they call "mis-tweeting."

It's not just the two political party groups firing questionable claims back and forth. Individual politicians are getting in on the game as well, including House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (see photo). He wrote on his Twitter profile last week:

At the end of this year, Americans will face the "Obama tax increase," & it will be the largest in history

That supposed "Obama tax increase" is actually the Bush tax cut expiration. And as for being "the largest in history," that's if you neglect to account for inflation. With inflation, the tax changes wouldn't even make the top 10, notes FactCheck.org.

Shading political rhetoric is nothing new, of course. Online and on TV, like Comedy Central's "Daily Show," folks with access to Google have blasted politicians' off-the-cuff falsehoods. ABC's "This Week" has made an online feature out of checking its guests' on-air claims.

But on Twitter, politicians theoretically have quite a bit of time to verify what they send out before they hit the "Submit" button. Is that too much to ask?

-- Mark Milian

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Photo: Associated Press

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