The State Department is tightening its embrace of Twitter and other social media as crises grip the Middle East and Haiti, with officials finding new voice, cheek and influence in the era of digital diplomacy.
Even as it struggles to contain damage caused by WikiLeaks’ release of classified internal documents, the department is reaching out across the Internet. It’s bypassing traditional news outlets to connect directly and in real time with overseas audiences in the throes of unrest and upheaval.
American diplomacy isn’t a newcomer to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr or Twitter, but it has stepped up online efforts as those networks play a growing role in events around the world.
In recent days, department spokesman P.J. Crowley has tweeted to knock down rumors, amplify U.S. policy positions, appeal for calm and urge reforms in Haiti, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Well before he addressed the State Department press corps on the return to Haiti of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and the possible return of ousted President Jean-Betrand Aristide, Crowley took to Twitter to pronounce the U.S. position
"We are surprised by the timing of Duvalier’s visit to Haiti," he wrote last Monday, a federal holiday in the U.S. "It adds unpredictability at an uncertain time in Haiti’s election process."
Late Thursday night, Crowley commented on Aristide. "We do not doubt President Aristide’s desire to help the people of Haiti. But today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past."
He also outed the official State Department position on the Toronto Maple Leafs and takes a pot shot at the Chicago Bears. Just like any I’d expect any Assistant Secretary of State to do. Awesome.