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Ambassador Susan Rice joined the panel at this year’s Social Good Summit to talk about how she’s using social media in her role as the US’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
Rice, with over 190 000 followers, admits she may be comfortable using Twitter now, but she was initially wary of it, a self-confessed sceptic, and wondered how she would be able to “responsibly conduct foreign policy in something that looked like haiku”.
Rice has since found Twitter to be “fun, and a great way to connect with an audience around the world.” More importantly, she says, it’s a resource for her and her colleagues to “distill [our] message down to its essence.”
The ambassador says the use of social media is in line with US President Barack Obama’s mandate to make information available to the public, and to be transparent in what is going on in government. Beyond the borders of the UN, Rice says she’s been able to spread information about UNICEF and other outreach efforts that she’s involved in and so create awareness and raise funds. “I’ve also been able to use Twitter to call out the bad guys — dictators from foreign countries, for example.”
Rice also believes in the positive use of other social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube, two tools that she also uses in her daily work. “I used Facebook during Libya’s uprising to urge women to get on board and play their role in the transition, and I did it again when the new government was forming, to encourage them to run for office.”
She maintains that social media has given her greater visibility, especially in identifying threats to national security, which, she said, also come from disease and climate change. Rice believes that when it comes to foreign policy, the state department has harnessed social media to be an effective tool as apart of outreach too. “When the trouble in Syria began, the Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford used Facebook to post info about where Syrian tanks were massing, and so it’s an effective tool for protection.”
In order to continue to use social media as a force for good, Rice says people need to think about not “counting change, as in making money, but making change.” She also reminds people that “social media is a tool, not a solution” and that there are limitations, especially in that it remains inaccessible in certain areas of the world that need it most.