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Battlefront Twitter


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"We R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA + tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live?"

That's not poor editing or a printing error. That's an official statement by an Israeli diplomat delivered on Tuesday over the on-line Twitter network.

Twitter is a "micro-blogging" Web site that lets users report their moment-to-moment thoughts in "tweets," or messages no longer than 140 characters. Friends can follow these tweets and respond to them. The service is particularly popular on handheld devices such as cellphones and PDAs.

Twitter has been used in the past by aid agencies to convey real-time information during emergencies, and famously by NASA for daily updates on the discoveries of its Mars exploration rovers.

On Tuesday, it was used for the first time by a government when Israel's New York consulate held a "live citizen press conference" hosted by David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs. The conference saw thousands of on-line "attendees" who followed the consulate's Twitter page during the two-hour discussion.

Twitter is a unique format of the media battle, Saranga told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday, because it reaches a young generation that does not consume mainstream media such as television or newspapers.

"This is a young audience that doesn't want to hear history or long-winded stories. It wants clear, short and on-topic responses. That's Twitter and that's our goal: short and precise responses that answer their questions," said Saranga.

The limits on length can produce a shorthand that is familiar to veteran bloggers and the Internet-savvy young people. Where else would one find an official diplomatic response that reads, "We hav 2 prtct R ctzens 2, only way fwd through negotiations, & left Gaza in 05. y Hamas launch missiles not peace?"

"Since the start of the Gaza situation, we've noticed a very active discussion on Twitter that hasn't been very complimentary to the Israeli side," Saranga explained. "On Twitter, anyone can say whatever they think without giving a name, and they can present supposed facts and are believed. So we felt it was important to present a voice that is not anonymous, where people know the source of the information."

In addition, Saranga said, "we want to give our own defenders in this arena the arguments to carry out that defense."

The proceedings of this "citizen press conference" can be read at the consulate's Twitter page, which requires a free Twitter membership, at http://www.twitter.com/IsraelConsulate.

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