Social media an important foreign policy tool, says State Department official

Foreign policy has not traditionally been a modern or agile part of government, but the State Department is using social media as an effective outreach tool, said United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, while speaking Sept. 23 at Mashable's Social Good Summit.

"I've got to admit, when this all started a couple of years ago I was a skeptic," said Rice.

"I thought it might sort of cheapen the coin. But I was so wrong and I've gotten really into it because I realize it's a whole different way of connecting with a completely different set of voices and people around the world," said Rice. "It's helpful in causing me and my colleagues to distil our message."

Rice said she uses Twitter to amplify State Department statements in the U.N. Security Council and to draw attention to humanitarian causes. She also said she uses it to "call out bad guys and dictators when they're doing the wrong things."

Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford is no longer in that war-torn country, but uses Facebook to post information about where Syrian tanks are massing using overhead imagery, said Rice. And when Libya held its first elections this summer Rice used YouTube to convey to the women of Libya the importance of their vote and urged them to run for office.

While social media is an increasingly important tool for the State Department, Rice emphasized that it's just that. "It's a tool, not an end in itself," she said.

Social media can't do or solve everything, she said. There are places where social media is most needed but it's less accessible. And oppressive regimes can harness social media for their agendas--through denial of access and by using social media for their own messaging.

For more:
- watch an archived video of Rice's discussion at the Social Good Summit

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