In many countries, growing numbers of users have made Twitter the second most important social network, just behind Facebook. Yet Twitter’s popularity in Germany doesn't even come close to the levels it enjoys in countries like Brazil, the United States, Spain or Turkey.
In Germany, the number of Twitter users is similar to that of the considerably smaller Netherlands—despite having a population almost five times the size. An Economist magazine blog has already raised the question “Why Do Germans Shun Twitter” and comes to the conclusion that the transparency of Twitter comes in conflict with the German need for privacy.
Now the transparency of Twitter could provide a way to shed more light on the darkness of lobbying in German politics. In his blog Hamburger Wahlbeobachter [de], political advisor and blogger Martin Fuchs recently called on German politicians to publicize their meetings with lobbyists on Twitter using the hashtag #Lobbytweet. Some politicians already post these meetings on their websites; Green Party MP Tabea Rößner posts a selection of bizarre lobbyist presents on her Facebook page [de]. The posting of lobby tweets would aggregate these types of meetings and give citizens, journalists, and NGOs a peek—if not a window—into the extent of lobbying in Germany.
The initiative proposed by Hamburger Wahlbeobachter originates with a tweet by Green Party MP Agnieszka Brugger, who routeinly returns gifts from lobbyists to their senders. In October, Brugger sent back one particular gift from the Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft (INSM), or New Social Market Economy Initiative in English, and tweeted:
#INSM, your gift is going back.
Hamburger Wahlbeobachter keeps a running list on his blog with all MPs at the state and national level who agreed to use #Lobbytweet to report on their meetings with lobbyists. So far, seven parlamentarians have signed on to the initaitive, some from the national parliament, Bundestag, and some from state parliaments. It remains to be seen if more politicians will follow.
The first politicians who expressed interest in using #Lobbytweet were given a euphoric greeting from Fuchs, the man behind the initiative:
Reactions on Twitter have so far been very positive. Jona Hölderle tweeted, mentioning Fuchs (@wahl_beobachter):
Yannick Dillinger appears to be excited about the #Lobbytweet initiative:
Journalist Claus Hesseling (@the_claus) also found the idea worth recommending:
— Claus Hesseling (@the_claus) December 18, 2013
The #Lobbytweet initiative does not exonerate politics from its obligation to pass legislation for greater transparency. The nonprofit organization LobbyControl and other organizations have long put pressure on politicians to create a mandatory lobby register and to pass a law to prevent bribery among parliamentarians. Still, the #Lobbytweets could be a small step in the right direction.