Monday, December 01, 2008

Facebooking for Freedom

The appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State isn't the only news story about the State Department today. Apparently the U.S. Department of State is expanding its social media ventures to Facebook, as the following press release describes. It is interesting that the addressee is assumed to be a beleaguered instructor who is struggling for attention from multitasking students. Also worthy of note is the assumption that social network sites are unproductive uses of time that can now be turned to socially productive ends.

How much time do students spend Facebooking in your class? Did you know they might not actually be changing their status messages but helping to combat terrorism, fight oppression and counter violence? Want to show your students another angle to how international politics can move beyond simple realist or domestic policy theory into actual physical manifestations?

With help from Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, AT&T, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State leaders of 17 pioneering organizations from 15 countries that have used social networking to combat violence and oppression will meet for the first time to discuss their individual stories. This Alliance of Youth Movements will join together in New York from December 3-5 to create a how-to manual of best practices and join together to form a new group to help mentor others that want to help change their own lives.

Impossible? Ask Oscar Morales from Colombia who launched One Million Voices Against the FARC on Facebook. Aided by these social networking technologies, the organization inspired 12 million people in 200 cities around the world to take to the streets in protest against the FARC, an extremist group that has been terrorizing Colombia for more than 40 years. The magnitude of the marches illustrated once and for all that the FARC lacked a strong support base. Within days of the protests, the FARC witnessed massive desertions from their ranks. The Colombian group will share their ideas with leaders of other groups that use social and mobile technologies to promote freedom and justice and oppose violence, extremism and oppression.

Couldn't work? Ask the leaders of Obama's New Media Team who will be speaking together for the first time at the Summit on how their success using Facebook, Starting tomorrow, your students can log on to with their Facebook ID via the "Facebook Connect" logo. Your students can interact with the 17 youth movements from
Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Colombia and beyond. Attached please find the agenda for the Summit and pasted below the release which gives a bit more detail about the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit.

Compared to the regrettable State Department blog Dipnote and its less efficacious uses of Twitter than its counterparts from the diplomatic corps of other developed nations, this may be a step in the right direction for digital communication in service of foreign policy at last.

Thanks to Julia Lupton for the link.

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