State Department launches Arabic Twitter feed

The State Department's new Twitter feed (@USAbilAraby) appears to be written in the more formal Modern Standard Arabic.
The State Department's new Twitter feed (@USAbilAraby) appears to be written in the more formal Modern Standard Arabic.
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Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2011

The State Department - already pretty good at social media - is now using Twitter to transmit its thoughts to the Arab world . . . in Arabic.

Foggy Bottom is using @USAbilAraby, which in English means "USA in Arabic." The feed's description says it's the "Department of State Arabic Media Hub."

"The US foreign ministry has recognized the historic role of social media in the Arab world and we want to be part of your conversations," says one of the first tweets.

The account had about 300 followers by midafternoon Wednesday.

Notably, the State Department appears to be using Modern Standard Arabic, a formal, high-register Arabic that is the most common form of expression for media outlets and public and religious officials. In many cases, younger Arab social media users appear to be breaking away from the strict formal expression and using both Arab and Latin-alphabet dialect.

The State Department has several social media voices of its own. Lead spokesman P.J. Crowley is a frequent - and witty - Twitter user (@PJCrowley); he once warned Americans not to travel to North Korea by noting that the United States had only so many former presidents available to rescue them.

At the start of the Obama administration, the department employed two active users, Jared Cohen (@JaredCohen), who now serves as director of Google Ideas, and Alec Ross (@AlecJRoss), who remains as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's senior adviser for innovation. Both quickly became among the most followed federal officials.

ed.okeefe@washingtonpost.com buckj@washpost.com


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