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US Miltary, Taliban engage each other via Twitter

December 18, 2011

ISAF LogoI could see the US Military and the Taliban following each other on Twitter, but talking with each other via Twitter? Ernesto Londoño (@londonoe), a roving foreign correspondent for the Washington Post reports Twitter is the sole open line of communication between Americans and the Taliban after exploratory peace talks collapsed this year.

U.S. military officials say the dramatic assault on the diplomatic compound [U.S. Embassy in Kabul] convinced them that they needed to seize the propaganda initiative — and that in Twitter, they had a tool at hand that could shape the narrative much more quickly than news releases or responses to individual queries.

An example of what is turning into a near daily exchange?

From U.S. military officials assigned to the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF (@isafmedia), as the coalition is known: “How much longer will terrorists put innocent Afghans in harm’s way?”

In response, Abdulqahar Balkhi (@ABalkhi), one of the Taliban’s Twitter warriors: “I dnt knw. U hve bn pttng thm n ‘harm’s way’ fr da pst 10 yrs. Razd whole vilgs n mrkts. n stil hv da nrve to tlk bout ‘harm’s way.'”

The US Military’s Twitter account “…[U]sed to be a tool to regurgitate the company line,” per Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, a military spokesman, commenting on what used to be a passive Twitter account before the attack, “We’ve turned it into what it can be.”

We turned Twitter into what it can be. That says an awful lot.

Law firms are claiming their Twitter accounts, but many are passive at best. Many large law firms have ‘reserved’ their Twitter handle, but have left their Twitter avatar profile in default status without ever Tweeting anything. Many other law firms regurgitate the company line, as Lt. Cmdr. Badura describes it.

At a time when law firm clients and their influencers (reporters, associations, publishers, bloggers, thought leaders) are engaging each others as well as other law firms and their lawyers, it makes little sense for law firms to take a passive approach to Twitter.

You’d like to think security and confidence are at least as important in the US Military as in law firms and they’re engaging the outside world to influence public opinion and respond quickly.

Who’s winning the war of words between the US and the Taliban? If the number of followers is indicative, Londoño reports the number of users following the coalition has swelled from 736 to nearly 18,000, while he two Taliban accounts — @alemarahweb and @ABalkhi — have just over 9,000 combined.

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