U.S. Invades Cyberspace

The U.S. State Department is upgrading "foreign policy to Web 2.0 interactivity for the new electronic information age," with its first-ever blog, "Dipnote." The department "has already vastly expanded its Web presence and ... has set up a State Department YouTube channel." Meanwhile, the department's Digital Outreach Team is monitoring Middle Eastern blogs and Internet forums, sometimes adding comments. "The team concentrates on about a dozen mainstream Web sites such as chat rooms set up by the BBC and Al Jazeera or charismatic Muslim figures like Amr Khaled, as well as Arab news sites like Elaph.com," reports the New York Times. The sites are chosen for "high traffic and a focus on United States policy." Members of the Digital Outreach Team, which includes two Arabic speakers, "always identify themselves as being from the State Department." Topics they frequently comment on include the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, President Bush's having called the fight against terrorism a "crusade," and anti-Muslim comments by "prominent Americans from talk-show hosts to politicians ... of the 'bomb Mecca' variety."