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Government Social Media Service Provider Update

In May of this year, the U.S. General Services Administration negotiated Terms Of Service (TOS) with several big social media providers.  The goal was to arrive at a TOS federal agencies would be comfortable enough with to sign so each agency – and provider – would be spared from negotiating separate TOS agreements. The White House and GSA have now also negotiated Terms of Service agreements with nine additional social media providers:

Cooliris (video and picture browsing)
Dipity (multimedia timelines)
FriendFeed (social networking aggregator)
IdeaScale (voting and feedback)
MixedInk (collaborative writing)
Scribd (social publishing)
TubeMogul (video analytics and distribution)
TwitVid (video sharing)
Wikispaces (collaboration)

This brings the total number of agreements to 19, including previous agreements with AddThis,, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Slideshare, Socrata (formerly Blist), Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.

You can read more about the Federal TOS agreements on

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New York State Launches Web 2.0 Initiatives

On June 5, the New York State Office for Technology announced Empire 2.0, a strategy to encourage state agencies to use “Web 2.0, new media, and social collaborative tools and technologies” to improve communication and services, and facilitate transparency and openness in government.New York State Tech Talk

The Office for Technology is leading the way. Since May it has launched its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, a wiki for developing IT policy and strategy, and crowdsourcing Web page that collects pubic comments and ideas for future projects.

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State Department embraces new media tools

Franklin Delano Roosevelt popularized presidential radio addresses with fireside chats during the depression. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy participated in the first nationally televised presidential debate in 1960.  Following that illustrious history of cutting edge information technology in Washington, Hillary Clinton’s State Department has recently entered the twenty-first century by refurbishing the department website, improving its blog and even enabling citizens to “text the Secretary” with questions.

“Digital Diplomacy” is the phrase being used to describe the State Department’s mission to use Web 2.0 technology to increase awareness among citizens of foreign countries, and thereby improve attitudes toward the U.S. internationally. The State Department now operates a social networking site called ExchangesConnect where dialogue is encouraged among international users concerning foreign policy. When Hillary Clinton has travelled abroad this year, the traditional press corps bumped elbows with local bloggers from Asia and the Middle East. And this January saw an online debate between then-Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy James K. Glassman and a group of Egyptian bloggers, wherein 200 people participated via the Internet, nearly half of them from the Middle East.

But is online outreach good for diplomacy?  Some, like author and Web 2.0 consultant Rob Salkowitz, doubt the ultimate advantages of this approach.

“Diplomacy isn’t all about conversation and mutual understanding,” said Salkowitz. “Used correctly, it is the method states use to unite their allies and divide their enemies in order to forward their national interests. It is communication with a purpose, and the purpose comes first.”

Fair point, but isn’t increasing communication in and of itself a purpose? Few would argue the benefit of Hillary Clinton Tweeting about what pant suits she’s deciding between that day, but a little transparency into government processes and policies goes a long way. If risk communication has taught us anything, it’s that the less communication there exists between two groups, the greater the likelihood distrust will develop.

Clinton is undeniably optimistic on the subject of enhancing the State Department’s outreach effort, stating that “we’ve barely scratched the surface as to what we can use to communicate with people around the world” to the National Journal.

While serious international diplomacy may need to remain primarily face-to-face for the foreseeable future, reaching out across borders digital could yield more positive responses than negative. Foreigners using blogs and Twitter to peer directly into the lives of our top-ranking officials in Washington may develop the same phenomenon that makes us feel like we know the personalities of actors more personally, despite never actually meeting. Would this enable some to toss their far-flung beliefs about Americans’ overt consumerism and hubris? Perhaps. And that’s enough of a reason to experiment for now.

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