Twitter Tenacity

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have no shortage of ability to draw attention in the celebrity press. Nor do they have any problem reaching their fanbase, what with some 7.3 million Twitter followers between them. But lately they have been taking their social activism to a new level, calling out specific lawmakers to take action.

On Friday they announced that their foundation was launching a campaign to ban child slavery in Haiti, an extension of their effort to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide. Over the weekend, Moore called out specific members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Tweet, asking them to address the problem, and it generated a few responses, including one from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who noted that he cosponsored the Child Protection Compact with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). “Thank you 4 your leadership,” she wrote back, “but can you also ask Haitian govt to outlaw child slavery?” 

A week ago, Moore called out Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), writing, “Human Trafficking shld B a felony how cn it not B in MA @ScottBrownMA @MassGovernor ? Lets make it a priority 2 create the rt protection.” Patrick answered, “Trafficking covered by 3+ MA felony laws & bill pending (S58) makes laws stronger.” But that was countered by this reply from the couple: “We agree that S58 would be a great step—but we disagree that is enough to say that trafficking is “covered” by other statutes.”

Any activist, celebrity or otherwise, struggles for attention, but the greater challenge is legislative action, and in that respect the bar has been raised. The concept of celebrities going to Capitol Hill to testify on their particular cause is now viewed as more of a way for lawmakers and stars to share in some mutually assured publicity than real action being taken.

The idea behind lobbying-via-Twitter (much easier than trekking to the Hill) is much less about drawing Senators into a debate than it is about getting their followers to put pressure on them too. That’s why the bar has been raised. With some exceptions, it is no longer enough to merely have fame and connections, but a concrete following, akin to a political campaign being able to draw on a treasure chest of e-mails and small-dollar donor lists.

We’ll see where this goes — if it goes anywhere. But it is a twist on a standard spectacle in D.C.

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