Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently attended a three-day technology camp in Vilnius, Lithuania. Hosted by the U.S. State Department, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Skype were on hand to show prospective protesters how to avoid official harassment while using communication media to protest government activity. Secretary Clinton singled out neighboring Belarus as a country whose restrictions on social media are unacceptable. Citing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Clinton has previously defended the right to access information freely across political borders.
What’s the Big Idea?
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, where popular uprisings across the Arab world were coordinated across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the American government is hoping to inspire similar events in countries whose regimes actively restrict the free flow of information. Rather than dropping bombs on a nation’s infrastructure, the State Department views promotion of social media as a soft extension of American power. Since before the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began, a debate has taken place over the effectiveness of social media in fomenting revolution.