State Department officials are taking a liberal view of what constitutes reflections of American interests. Leading the home page Tuesday was a video of Steve Jobs’s 2005 commencement address at Stanford. But other posts are more straightforward, such as a White House photo that reveals the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote decorating the Oval Office’s rug. Each Share America story comes equipped with prominent “Share This” and “Tweet This” buttons. And there’s little hiding the source — the .gov address is baked into each shared link, even in shortened form.
American diplomats have long tried to win the information game. And under both previous Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry, the State Department has attempted to identify and even amplify the nuances of an increasingly horizontal world; the 21st Century Statecraft push centered on the idea that there is growing power in peer-to-peer communications. But now that formal outreach channels like Voice of America are competing with thousands, if not millions, of less formal channels, it can be difficult for governments to find traction.
Tom Cochran, the former chief technology officer at Atlantic Media, joined the State Department in March, bringing his knowledge of how the modern, data-driven media environment works. Cochran is helping to drive the creation of Share America. Each post on the site is produced by State Department staff.
Cochran will be among the first to know whether the world is, indeed, eager to share Share America’s vision of America. But just as the Internet has revealed the world’s common love of cat photos, officials are hoping that it will also reveal its love of American-style freedom.