U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – speaking on behalf of the Obama administration – expressed views on the power of media via a statement on 21st Century Statecraft:
“… We have seen the possibilities of what can happen when ordinary citizens are empowered by Twitter and Facebook to organize political movements, or simply exchange ideas and information… we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development…”
And engaging is indeed what the administration is doing.
From English to Arabic – the bilingual U.S. State Department is “tweaking its tweets -taking on two new Twitter accounts- in two new languages.” On 09 February, @USAbilAraby (“USA in Arabic”) was formed, and by 10 February, the account grew from 159 followers to 600 followers. By 18 February, the handle had 1,386 followers and growing. @USAbilAraby was made in support of the Egyptians who have been using social media as a revolutionary tool, to oust their former unfavorable leader, President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak.
Some prominent tweeters on Egypt include @monaeltahawy and @Ghonim. @USAbilAraby has been tweeting via Modern Standard Arabic — “the most common form of expression for media outlets and public and religious officials” — which younger Arab social media users tend to veer away from. But regardless of linguistic formalities, the U.S. State Department is are getting their voice out there and joining the people, which is what matters most.
Google and Facebook went Farsi in June 2009, and now in 2011, the U.S. State Department has taken similar measures. In response to the 14 February — “ 25 Bahman” on the Persian calendar — demonstrations, the State added another lingo to their tweets and started the Twitter handle @USAdarFarsi (“USA in Farsi”). The account had 60 followers within two hours of being launched, and by 18 February, it had 4,291 followers and growing.
Some prominent tweeters on Iran are @oxfordgirl and @GEsfandiari.
Both @USAbilAraby and @USAdarFarsi have been conversing via similar hashtags: #25Jan, #Iran, #25Bahman, #sidibouzid, #Egypt, #netfreedom, #SecClinton, #Obama, #Libya, #Bahrain. @USAdarFarsi’s first tweet reads: “The US State Department recognizes the historic role of social media among Iranians in the world now. We want to join in your conversations.”
Have you joined the conversation yet?