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18

DECEMBER 2014

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

exchanging business cards at a real-life

party. Often, a virtual first interaction

leads to a real-life meeting. In other

instances, people I know only from

Twitter have referred me to others in

their real-life social network.

If the conversation isn’t produc-

tive—for example, when other users’

comments are hostile or aggressive, or

when a journalist is pressing for infor-

mation you shouldn’t share—the best

Direct outreach to key contacts is still the

heart of our profession. Social media can

help us be better at this important work.

course of action (online as in real life) is

to stay civil and leave the conversation.

Regulation Roadblocks

Direct outreach to key contacts is still

the heart of our profession. Social media

can help us be better at this important

work. Unfortunately, however, for all

the talk of “digital diplomacy,” the State

Department’s regulations stand in the way.

Current Foreign Affairs Manual regulations require any

State Depart-

ment employee posting anything to a

social media site that relates to a matter

“of official concern” to go through the

same clearance process that would gov-

ern a media appearance or a published

op-ed.

This is a shockingly vague rule, one

that I have been told in training covers

even posting quotes from official State

Department statements or links to

articles that support U.S. policy. It is a

rule so vague that any diplomat with

a Facebook account will confirm that

nearly every one of us violates it on a

daily basis.

If you think of Twitter as the digital

equivalent of a newspaper, then it

makes sense to try to maintain control