Friday, January 16, 2009

web 2.0

US to use web 2.0 to win "war of ideas" : US image-maker

The United States is embracing social networks and other Web 2.0 tools to win the "war of ideas" with Islamic militants and other extremist groups, a top US policy-maker said Monday.

"In the war of ideas our core task in 2008 is to create an environment hostile to violent extremism," said James Glassman, the US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

"We do that in two ways -- by undermining extremist ideologies and by encouraging young people to follow productive paths that lead away from terrorism," Glassman said in a speech at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank.

"The best way to achieve our goals in public diplomacy is through a new approach to communicating, an approach that is made far easier because of the emergence of Web 2.0 or social networking technologies," he said.

"We call our new approach Public Diplomacy 2.0," said Glassman, who replaced Karen Hughes as the State Department's top image-maker after the confidante of President George W. Bush stepped down from the post late last year.

"Al-Qaeda and other violent extremist organizations have exploited the Internet to their advantage but that advantage has rapidly diminished," he said. "New technology gives the United States a significant comparative advantage over the terrorists."

Glassman said it was vital that the US government adapt its tools and its message to the Internet era.

"In this new world of communications any government that resists new Internet techniques faces a greater risk -- being ignored," he said.

"Our major target audiences, especially the young, don't want to see us lecture them, tell them what to think or how wonderful we are," he added.

Glassman said the State Department and other government agencies were engaged in a variety of efforts to interactively engage the public.

The State Department's Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau has a page on Facebook, he said, and "our digital outreach team goes on to blogs and websites in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and, we hope soon, in Russian.

"Its members identify themselves as State Department representatives and they engage in the conversation, gently inform or correct distortions about US policies," he said.

Glassman said the State Department's Farsi blogger had recently engaged in "an extended series of posts" on the blog of the media adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said that in partnership with NBC Universal, the Director's Guild of America, and New York University, the State Department recently sponsored a YouTube video contest in which participants were asked to make a video answering the question "Democracy Is...?"

He said the US government would also increase partnerships with the private sector such as a conference being held in New York this week bringing together youth online groups from around the world.

Glassman cautioned that public diplomacy was "only one tool for achieving foreign policy and national security goals.

"We never will say that soft power is a substitute for hard power but it is an essential complement," he said.

Glassman said the State Department has an annual budget of some 900 million dollars for public diplomacy, about two-thirds of which goes for cultural and educational exchanges such as the Fulbright program.

Glassman also said that 623,000 foreign students were enrolled in US universities in 2008, up seven percent over last year.

"There are more foreign students in the United States than there ever were, even more than before 9/11," he said.

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