Twitter enables global State Department briefings

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During the month of January the State Department will take five questions from the international Twitter community every Friday after its daily press briefing. The department fielded questions during its first Twitter briefing Jan. 6, responding to tweets that used the hash tag #AskState.

"The Secretary is encouraging all of us to use new technology and innovation as a key part of our foreign policy agenda," said Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland during the briefing.

In its first Twitter breifing, the department responded to questions submitted in five languages from its official twitter feeds: English (@StateDept), Arabic (@USAbilAraby), Chinese (@USA_Zhongwen), Farsi (@USAdarFarsi) and French (@USAenFrancais).

In week two of the exercise, Nuland will respond to questions Jan. 13 from five different languages: Hindi (@USAHindiMein), Portuguese (@USAemPortugues), Russian (@USApoRusski), Spanish (@USAenEspanol) and Urdu (@USAUrdu).

Following the briefing, responses will be made available on the department's YouTube Channel in subtitled video clips corresponding to the language of the question.

Despite more than 500 tweets using the #AskState hash tag, only the following questions were selected for an official response from Nuland:  

  • In Arabic @Justicefinally1 asked about the U.S. refusal to intervene militarily to stop the massacre against Syrian civilians, and wanted to know why not;
  • Through the U.S. Embassy Sina Weibo's Chinese language feed, "Anakin" asked if the United States' global leadership depends more on improving its human rights status or maintaining its global military presence;
  • In English @ObSilence asked why the State Department supports regime change in Sudan where government-led genocide continues, where it has taken a different stance in Syria and Libya;
  • In Farsi @Aminlv asked a two-part question about Iran cutting off the Internet and the status of the suitcase Internet, and the U.S. procedure on the threats that Iran will close passage through the Straits of Hormuz; and
  • In French, @jbhutchinson asked if a scaled-back military strategy will effect NATO.

Anyone looking for a frank discussion of issues may have been disappointed, however. Nuland's responses were fairly predictable and echoed State Department policy on many of the issues raised. Nuland said NATO commitments wouldn't be threatened, the nation is focused on both military and human rights, and the department is committed to Internet freedom and condemns Internet censorship in Iran. Nuland said because Syrian opposition has asked that foreign forces not intervene and because the United States hopes for a peaceful transition to a democratic Syria, it will not intervene militarily.

In response to the question on Sudan with comparisons to Syria and Lybia, she noted that each country and each situation is different.

Nuland's language was slightly charged, however, when speaking on the "bellicose rhetoric from the Iranian regime on the Straits of Hormuz." The United States considers the Straits of Hormuz to be international waters and she said the State Department anticipates the Navy will continue to help maintain freedom of navigation through the Straits of Hormuz.

For more:
- watch embedded video of the press briefing
- read a transcript of the briefing

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