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Technology Diplomacy: How The WH Pushes Obama's Message Abroad


It's not just the formal administration channels, but the Facebook pages of the U.S. embassies in Kabul and via the consulate Web sites.

It goes right at the Obama administration's strategy to win hearts and minds abroad through less traditional channels. Each foreign policy push comes in layers - interviews with international media, video messages such as what Obama did for Iranian New Year intended mostly for a foreign audience, a big speech or town hall and then outreach to make sure the message got through.

When the president's remarks abroad haven't been disseminated fully by the media, administration and state department officials have pushed his speeches through Facebook and international social networking sites.

In June, they set up a text messaging forum for Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. When Obama spoke in Ghana, the White House offered a similar push via Facebook.

From a messaging standpoint, everything is "new" - it was "A New Beginning" in Egypt, and the Afghanistan troops decision was "A New Way Forward, a New Way to Communicate."

Explaining the Afghanistan clips, the State Department's Katie Stanton blogged at that it is an experiment being conducted by new media teams at the State Department and White House.

"We're hopeful that leveraging technology this way will help us achieve the President's goal of increasing America's security and undercutting the appeal of Al Qaeda and other extremists through global engagement," she said.

Stanton wrote:

Looking at data on, we don't have a lot of traffic coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan because Internet penetration in the region is relatively low at 2% and 11% respectively. However, mobile penetration is much higher. 52% of the 177 million people in Pakistan have at least 1 mobile device and 30% of the 28.4 million in Afghanistan. Given this trend, we produced short video clips of the President's segment to Afghans and had it dubbed in Arabic, Dari, Pashto, and Urdu in order for them to be distributed locally on mobile devices. Given the small screens on phones, subtitling wasn't an appropriate option. The original version in English is also available.

White House aides lauded Obama's recent town hall in Shanghai , where he talked about the Internet as an important element of a free society, but it was not widely viewed by citizens there.

Aides have said they will be posting the figures at some point on Internet viewership of the town hall.