Looking for #envlaw on Twitter

I know that most of our readers are probably not Twitter-users.  We at West Coast Environmental Law are pretty new to Twitter ourselves.  If you have absolutely no interest in Twitter you might want to read another post.  Here’s a good one about suing climate change deniers

But if you’re on Twitter, or are thinking about joining Twitter, or are vaguely interested in Twitter, then let me pose the question: why is there so little use of the #envlaw hashtag?  For those new to Twitter, a hashtag is a way of cataloging key issues addressed in posts on Twitter, and the #envlaw hashtag is supposed to be the hashtag for environmental law issues

Over the last week only 5 different twitter accounts used the #envlaw hashtag (not including two users who “re-tweeted” a message that already used the hashtag), resulting in a grand total of 17 tweets that were tagged as environmental law related.  Since Twitter sees about 5 million tweets a day, either there is precious little tweeting about environmental law or the #envlaw hashtag is simply not used. 

TwtVenn.jpgInitially I thought that perhaps environmental law really was not being tweeted about.  Shortly after realizing how few people were using the #envlaw hashtag, I came across TwitterVenn, an internet tool which plots the frequency with which various words show up in twitter posts. I plunked in the hashtags “#environment” “#eco” and “#law” and learned that there are 2224 tweets a day that are tagged with either #eco or #environment, and 501 each day tagged with #law, but less than 1 per day which is tagged with both law and an environmental tag. 

But it’s not true that people aren’t talking about environmental law issues on Twitter.  First, if you ignore hashtags and search Twitter for the phrase "environmental law" you get in the neighbourhood of 25 tweets per day, almost none of which use the #envlaw hashtag. That's not great, but since Twitter only allows tweets of up to 140 characters in length, it's amazing that anyone would use a full 17 characters spelling out "environmental law."

Second, there are a number of environmental lawyers and environmental law groups active on Twitter – see our ecolaw list for many of them.  These groups all tweet about environmental law to some degree, but few of them use the #envlaw hashtag or any other hashtag to signify environmental law.

Third, there are other hashtags that are directly related to environmental law problems, but which are more frequently used.  For example, posts related to:

  • the US Environmental Protection Agency (#EPA),
  • justice issues raised by toxic contamination (#toxicjustice); and
  • the structuring of a cap and trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (#capandtrade)

generally deal with specific environmental law issues. Collectively there are about 115.5 tweets each day tagged with these hashtags, and yet almost none of them are identified as being about #envlaw by the tweeters. 

It seems that tweeters are willing to tag their posts with the general #environment and #eco tags, and with the issue-specific tags, but not with an in-between #envlaw tag. 

Is it that non-lawyers don’t view these issues as environmental law issues?  Or that #envlaw is just an uncool tag? (Would #ecolaw be better?)  Why are even environmental law groups failing to use the #envlaw tag?  And how do we promote a lively discussion of environmental law on Twitter?  While #envlaw will probably never be a trending topic, we can at least make sure that those who are interested in environmental law issues can find relevant tweets on Twitter.

What do you think?  In addition to leaving your comments below, please vote in our twtpoll: How should environmental law tweets be tagged?