The United States Appeals to Internet Social Networks to Combat Terrorism

By Dialogo
December 10, 2008

AFP The United States is adopting new Internet information exchange tools such as social networks and blogs to win the "war of ideas" against Islamic activists and other fundamentalist groups, a government official said last Monday. "In the war of ideas our core task in 2008 has been to create an environment hostile to violent extremism," said James Glassman, US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. "We do that in two ways: by weakening extremist ideologies and by encouraging young people to follow productive paths that lead away from terrorism,” said Glassman in a speech at the New America Foundation, a consulting firm headquartered in Washington. “The best way to achieve our goals in public diplomacy is through a new approach related to communication, an approach that is made far easier by the emergence of Web 2.0 or social network technologies,” he explained. "We call our new approach Public Diplomacy 2.0," said Glassman, the successor to Karen Hughes, who resigned last year after being appointed by President George W. Bush to improve the United States’ international image. "Al-Qaeda and other violent extremist organizations have taken advantage of the Internet; however, that advantage has rapidly diminished," he said. “New technology gives the United States a significant comparative advantage over terrorists.” According to Glassman, it is vital that the American government adapt its tools and message to the Internet era. As a result, the Department of State and other official agencies have dedicated efforts to reach the public in this way. The Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau has a page on Facebook, and "our digital promotion team participates in blogs and web sites in Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu, and hopefully, soon in Russian." Their members identify themselves as representatives of the Department of State when they participate in discussions, and they gently inform or correct errors about American policies," said Glassman. As an example, he cited the case of the Department of State’s Farsi blogger, who recently posted several entries in the blog of the Media Adviser to Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad. He also spoke about an association between NBC Universal, the Director's Guild of America, and New York University to sponsor a contest on YouTube in which participants made videos to answer the question “Democracy is…?” Glassman also said that government will increase partnerships with the private sector, and mentioned that a conference in New York will take place this week to gather online groups from all around the world.