Social Media and Foreign Policy: An Update From Silicon Valley

Posted by Mike Hammer
November 21, 2011
Global Twitter Q&A at the State Department

In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco a year ago, Secretary Clinton made clear that in addition to using social media tools at the State Department "we're also reaching to the people behind these tools, the innovators and entrepreneurs themselves." This was precisely the purpose of my recent trip to San Francisco and Palo Alto, California to meet executives from Twitter, Facebook, and Google as well as academics and students. I was accompanied by Victoria Esser, my Deputy for Digital Strategy -- a position we recently created to better meet Secretary Clinton's call for us to carry out "21st Century Statecraft," including innovation and leveraging networks and technology in pursuit of our foreign policy goals.

In a speech to the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and in our meetings, we delivered three core messages, that (1) effective use of social media and other new platforms advances our national security interests and diplomatic efforts; (2) the U.S. government supports Internet freedom; and, (3) Secretary Clinton's focus on communication and innovation is integral to our ongoing effort to renew American leadership abroad.

The innovative spirit in the Bay area was palpable and energizing. We had an opportunity to speak with private sector and academic experts and hear their thoughts on the intersection of social media and foreign policy. I was also encouraged by their support for the State Department's commitment to using social media to advance our foreign policy priorities and engage ordinary citizens.

With platforms like Twitter and Facebook, we are able to dramatically broaden our reach, join the global conversation, and present America's narrative directly and not through someone else's filter. A case in point is Iran -- to counter the regime's propaganda against us, we are working to communicate directly with the Iranian people, so we have established a Farsi Twitter feed and a Facebook page, worked to circumvent Iran's "electronic curtain," and will soon launch our virtual Embassy Tehran. And, more broadly, we are enabling State Department officials to field questions from Twitter users via our @StateDept account and our nine foreign language feeds -- Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Hindi, and Urdu.

At State, we strive to be the world's leading practitioner of digital diplomacy and to effectively leverage all the platforms and technologies available. It was clear from our conversations that no one can predict what the future will bring but everyone agrees that social media is here to stay, and to stay in a big way. State's challenge is to keep up with new trends and become trend-setters ourselves.



Massachusetts, USA
November 30, 2011

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Mike Hammer/ Social media Foreign policy-

Thank you for a very encouraging post and Felicitations a votre nouvelle promotion Mme Esser,c'est simplement "super"!

Just as a student elects to participate in an "international" Virtual High School class here in the US offering select courses not currently offered within the traditional framework of his/her school an Iranian student will have a new virtual doorway to expression and interaction with The Virtual Embassy Tehran. We may not know where we are going quite yet but better to communicate by setting the new norm for leadership through diplomacy along the way. Very encouraging.


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