Clinton seeks to bypass dictators and despots through technology
Secretary Clinton and her staff prepare to take off from Libya last week after meetings with the transitional government. Photo: Pool
October 28th, 2011
01:24 PM ET

Clinton seeks to bypass dictators and despots through technology

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

With 192 Twitter feeds, and 288 Facebook accounts, Clinton and the State Department are trying to use technology to change the way America speaks to the world, and help activists keep a step ahead of dictators and despots Time Magazine reports.

Gone are the days where statecraft was conducted primarily between diplomats in world capitals, and large summit meetings between world leaders with grand signing statements. Clinton is harnessing the use of so-called "smart power" which uses public diplomacy, development aid, public-private partnerships, and most visibly – social media, as a means to advance U.S. interests in an era of increasing austerity and tighter defense budgets.

One such initiative involves a $30 million increase in the State Department's budget to pay for computer training and surveillance-evading software for dissidents operating in authoritarian countries with tight controls over the internet. The effort seeks to stay ahead of the technological curve to help those on the ground in repressive environments be as free in their expression as possible.

In his article, Massimo Calabresi reports that Libyan rebels, in the early stages of the revolution to oust Moammer Gadhafi from power, had salvaged some telecommunications equipment from retreating forces that only allowed them to make local calls, and unable to access the Internet. "State quietly helped restore full services beyond Gadhafi's control and got access to fiber-optic cable networks that didn't run through Tripoli, allowing the rebels to gin up cash from abroad," Calabresi writes.

During her tenure, Clinton has pressed her ambassadors to expand their use of Facebook and Twitter, and requires every diplomat who attends the foreign-service institute to get training in social media.

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