Since the internet became more widely spread in the early 1990s, the world's networked population has grown from the low millions to the low billions (see internetworldstats.com, 2012). Some of this shift can be attributed to new forms of social media which provide a medium for user-generated internet content (Leung, 2012). According to Louis Leung (2009), these types of sites are popular, as people want to be heard and to express themselves in a social way. Social media provides a two-way platform for them to speak out and be heard.
As social media has become more widespread, so have its users - regular citizens, activists, non-government organizations, telecommunications firms, software providers, and governments to name a few. Each of these individuals and organisations brings with them a new set of knowledge and influence. While the anonymity of the net can produce some less than savoury results at times, the speed and ease of drawing a group of people together is just one way the internet is has become successful in the political sphere (see Shirkey 2011). Politicians have made use of these new media tools to engage with their followers, influencing their thoughts and behaviours through 140 characters. Additionally, social media platforms allow communication directly to politicians or their offices.