“Check” The State Department Makes its Move

The New York Times article, How the Kremlin Harnesses the Internet, is a piece over how the Russian government stealthily patrols the internet, by not explicitly censoring, but rather, by “targeted so-called denial-of-service attacks, with most of the site’s visitors receiving a “page cannot be found” message in their browsers.”

The Kremlin has been a great player in working with the internet to accomplish its mission both in blocking communication and in disseminating information. The United States struggling to keep up, has recently decided to step up its game . Recently, the Broadcasting Board of Governors published a piece this week about the Department of State’s (DoS) use of social media to respond to Putin’s propaganda machine. While the article focused heavily on The Obama Administration’s lack of financial support to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) it was an interesting piece highlighting the change underway at the DoS.

An excerpt from the article reads, “BBG Watch has learned that the Obama Administration is taking about half a million dollars in emergency extra funding to the BBG. . . It is needed to effectively counter Putin’s propaganda through multimedia outreach.” The article goes on to state that, “The State Department and the National Security Council have surprised many observers by their quick response to the crisis in Ukraine” and that “Susan Rice and Richard Stengel deserve credit not only for realizing early on that President Putin was engaged in what Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt has called “a massive propaganda war,” but also for mobilizing the NSC and the State Department staff and resources to provide quick responses to false and misleading claims pushed by the Kremlin.

The BBG’s praise of recent State Department tactics, bring to mind public diplomacy scholar Pammant’s arguments for the usage of new media platforms as a way to “exert influence and develop resources.” Pammant states that if an If the State Department is able to use social media tools as a way to advance policy goals in a way that is authentic it will need a network of relevant actors as part of their communication effort.

It is a big leap for the State Department to become more responsive in providing news and information from the United States to Russia, Ukraine, and many other nations in the region. But this is just a first step, many more will need to follow in order to keep the Department of State a relevant player in the game.

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