Facebook ambassadors: Countries should send diplomats to the social-media giant.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
May 27 2011 12:31 PM

Mr. Ambassador, Meet President Zuckerberg

Facebook is sending diplomats to foreign countries. Now foreign countries should send diplomats to Facebook.

(Continued from Page 1)

Of course, there's an official difference between these hypothetical ambassadors to Facebook and actual diplomats, who are recognized and protected by Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. But there are already gray areas for entities that aren't widely considered sovereign nations. "Taiwan is an interesting example -- it's not recognized by most states," Hughes said.. "If they can [participate in diplomacy], why can't Facebook?"

There's already some sense in the diplomatic community that a nation's Web presence is something to guard and protect. Over the last two years, with Hillary Clinton at the helm of the State Department, the U.S. has expanded its own "21 st Century Statecraft," with Obama ' s Persian - subtitled messages to the Iranian people and official State Department Twitter accounts in Portuguese, Arabic and other languages. Ambassador John Limbert, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran (and a former U.S. Embassy hostage in Tehran) told me this week that adopting these tools should already be part of a nation's diplomatic toolkit.  "Presumably, if a country's diplomatic service is doing its job, it will have tech-savvy people in its midst who, unlike people of my generation, will understand this stuff much better," he said.

When I ran the idea by David Edelstein, a professor and chair of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, however, he was not enthused.

Advertisement

"If you were a small or medium-sized country, what would you get by sending your diplomats to Facebook?" he asked. "It's not like sending them to Ford to get them to build a factory in your country. To me, that's a tough question to answer, exactly what they would hope to get out of that diplomacy." But he did see value in diplomatic relations going the other way, with Facebook sending representatives to foreign countries. "It could smooth the road to some of these legal and privacy issues before they become crises," he said. "That surely could be beneficial. Whether that requires standing diplomatic presences or not is probably not the extent you need to go. But some kind of regular consultation with countries in which they're operating would probably be in everybody's interest."

In a way, it's already happening. For the last five years, the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale,Calif., home of Yahoo, has been working with representatives from Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Malaysia, and Singapore to create "productive relationships that have resulted in increased international exposure for the respective countries and their high tech companies."

Future ambassadors to Facebook take note: It's only 13.5 miles up Highway 101 from Sunnyvale to Menlo Park.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.