The race for the White House finally came to a close on Tuesday night, with President Obama holding on to his role as the US commander in chief. But what the election also revealed was the massive importance of technology in public affairs. The social-networking service Twitter was the epicentre for commentary for professional pundits, political luminaries and citizens alike, breaking at least two records of note.
According to a Twitter blog post, the election was the most tweeted about political event in the company's almost seven-year history, logging 31 million tweets in the hours leading up to the announcement of the race's final results.
The Twitter activity reached its peak when networks began to call the victory for Obama, resulting in 327,452 tweets per minute. During the final stretch of the election, as the Twitter team watched user activity from the back-end, the company's CEO, Dick Costolo, tweeted, "Wow. The tweets they are many. Incredible." Costolo's comment was soon punctuated by Twitter engineer Dana Contreras, who tweeted, "Unbelievable tweets-per-second graph."
Another Twitter milestone reached during the proceedings was a new record for most retweets ever. According to Twitter, President Obama's celebratory message, which read, "Four more years," accompanied by a photo of him hugging the first lady, Michelle Obama, has been retweeted 777,677 (and counting) times.
The previous record was held by pop singer Justin Bieber, with over 200,000 retweets. However, those numbers don't reflect manual retweets, which allow for commentary on the original message, so the number is likely higher than that displayed by Twitter's system. The message has also been favourited over 250,000 times.
Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz told Reuters, "Twitter brought people closer to almost every aspect of the election this year. From breaking news, to sharing the experience of watching the debates, to interacting directly with the candidates, Twitter became a kind of nationwide caucus."
Further establishing Twitter as a sort of global public square, a number of other world leaders weighed in with public tweets of congratulations, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who wrote, "Warm congratulations to my friend Barack Obama. Look forward to continuing to work together," and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who wrote, "My sincere congratulations to President Barack Obama on your re-election!"