U.S. State Department to Take Press Briefing Questions via Twitter

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Consider it a particularly unexpected collision of democracy and technology in action: Starting this week, the official spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State will answer questions from Twitter users as part of press briefings held on Friday afternoons in January.

The month-long experiment is part of the State Department’s “21st Century Statecraft” month, and is only part of a program of events that will also include state officials hosting what are being called “digital engagements across multiple platforms” to promote the Department’s support of the internet, social media and digital platforms of various flavors.

(MORE: Why Twitter?)

Questions will be selected from those submitted to the Department’s 10 official Twitter feeds (listed below) with the hashtag #AskState; video clips of the questions and responses will be posted on the Department’s official YouTube Channel, complete with subtitles translating the answers into the language in which they were originally asked. As far as online political stunts go, this is actually kind of wonderful; I can only hope that it’s not something that disappears entirely at the end of the month if it’s successful.

The 10 Twitter feeds that will be monitored for questions, with the languages they support, are:

@StateDept (English)
@USAbilAraby (Arabic)
@USA_Zhongwen (Chinese)
@USAdarFarsi (Farsi)
@USAenFrancais (French)
@USAHindiMein (Hindi)
@USAemPortugues (Portuguese)
@USApoRusski (Russian)
@USAenEspanol (Spanish)
@USAUrdu (Urdu)

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Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.