Anthony Weiner scandal appears to quiet congressmen on Twitter

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) admits to sending a lewd Twitter photo of himself to a woman and then lying about it during a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue on June 6, 2011 in New York City. Weiner said he had not met any of the women in person but had numerous sexual relationships online while married. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Anthony Weiner
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In the days following the initial reports of Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner's lewd messages on Twitter, there was a noticeable drop in the number of messages members of Congress published on the social networking site, according to a study by the site TweetCongress.

Weiner's troubles started when he accidentally sent a public tweet with a picture of his crotch over the Memorial Day weekend. The following week, May 30 through June 3, questions grew as to whether or not Weiner sent the picture himself, until he admitted doing so the following Monday. Most of Weiner's congressional colleagues refused to comment on case that week -- and it turns out they were quiet on Twitter as well, tweeting 28 percent less than the previous week, the Hill reports.

On June 6, the day Weiner confessed to having "inappropriate" online relationships with various women, there were just 120 Democratic tweets -- about 30 percent less than two Mondays before. Among Republicans, there were 338 tweets, representing an 18 point drop. Check out some graphics here of congressional Twitter activity during the Weiner scandal.

There's no proof that the decline in tweets was related to Weiner's Twitter scandal.

It's clear, however, that as lawmakers integrate social media into their regular communications, they're still grappling with the risks. Of the 535 members of Congress, all but a handful use Twitter, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports, and Weiner certainly isn't the first to flub up on the site. Even when lawmakers deal with controversy unrelated to the Internet, reporters and pundits have learned to track that lawmaker's tweets for developments in a story.

Weiner, usually a prolific tweeter, hasn't tweeted since June 1. After quickly deleting the message that got him into hot water, he continued to use the social media site for a of couple days, while curious Twitter users started "following" him. Before the scandal, Weiner had around 40,000 followers; he now has more than 75,000.

Meanwhile, while many were initially reluctant to comment, a growing number of lawmakers are now calling on Weiner to resign. At least six Democrats in Congress are calling on him to step down, including Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who also announced last night he is donating to charity the $5,000 he received from Weiner's campaign committee.

"His actions have disgraced the Congress," Donnelly said in a statement. "Everyone should be focused on jobs and the economy and his refusal to do the right thing is a distraction."

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