Multilingual Tweets: U.S. State Department To Middle East Revolutionaries


U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – speaking on behalf of the Obama administration – expressed views on the power of media via a statement on 21st Century Statecraft:
“… We have seen the possibilities of what can happen when ordinary citizens are empowered by Twitter and Facebook to organize political movements, or simply exchange ideas and information… we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development…”
And engaging is indeed what the administration is doing.

From English to Arabic – the bilingual U.S. State Department is “tweaking its tweets -taking on two new Twitter accounts- in two new languages.” On 09 February, @USAbilAraby (“USA in Arabic”) was formed, and by 10 February, the account grew from 159 followers to 600 followers. By 18 February, the handle had 1,386 followers and growing. @USAbilAraby was made in support of the Egyptians who have been using social media as a revolutionary tool, to oust their former unfavorable leader, President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak.
Some prominent tweeters on Egypt include @monaeltahawy and @Ghonim. @USAbilAraby has been tweeting via Modern Standard Arabic — “the most common form of expression for media outlets and public and religious officials” — which younger Arab social media users tend to veer away from. But regardless of linguistic formalities, the U.S. State Department is are getting their voice out there and joining the people, which is what matters most.
Google and Facebook went Farsi in June 2009, and now in 2011, the U.S. State Department has taken similar measures. In response to the 14 February — “ 25 Bahman” on the Persian calendar — demonstrations, the State added another lingo to their tweets and started the Twitter handle @USAdarFarsi (“USA in Farsi”). The account had 60 followers within two hours of being launched, and by 18 February, it had 4,291 followers and growing.
Some prominent tweeters on Iran are @oxfordgirl and @GEsfandiari.

Both @USAbilAraby and @USAdarFarsi have been conversing via similar hashtags: #25Jan, #Iran, #25Bahman, #sidibouzid, #Egypt, #netfreedom, #SecClinton, #Obama, #Libya, #Bahrain. @USAdarFarsi’s first tweet reads: “The US State Department recognizes the historic role of social media among Iranians in the world now. We want to join in your conversations.”
Have you joined the conversation yet?

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About Jaclyn Nardone

Jaclyn is a blogger for TechChange. She believes that as we move forward with technology igniting social change, we must not forget those silenced via the red lines of censorship that infringe upon the flow of information, hampering freedom of expression, speech and press. Jaclyn earned her MA degree in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies from the United Nations mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica in 2010 and her BA (Honours) degree in Political Science & Communication Studies from the University of Windsor at home in Canada in 2009. She currently writes articles on behalf of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, via J-Source website, and her essays can be found on the online Peace and Conflict Monitor. Jaclyn was an intern with the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, in Washington DC, for the first half of 2011. Beyond her passion for media politics — Jaclyn is inspired by cultural diversity, has experience teaching children in both domestic and international settings and recognizes upmost value in empowering women’s rights.Contact Jaclyn at jaclyn [at] techchange.org