Hillary Clinton praises girls who code

LIA TIMSON
Last updated 15:39 23/07/2014
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CODE WORDS: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seen here during a visit to Twitter headquarters, has big aspirations for social media in diplomacy.

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On a swing through San Francisco, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped by Twitter headquarters where she praised "girls who code" and hoped social media would one day be used to resolve political and diplomatic problems.

Twitter's headquarters is a frequent destination for world figures, celebrities and politicians looking to amplify their message by addressing the employees of the popular social network.

Usually those visits only leak out through tweets and photos from staffers, but this time her talk was streamed on the internet, said Katie Stanton, vice president of global media and a former staffer of Clinton in the State Department.

Before anyone even got a question in,Stanton made sure her former boss was aware the non-profit organisation Girls Who Code was in the audience, prompting technology enthusiast Clinton to praise them immediately. Girls Who Code is a New York-based outfit that aims to provide computer science education to a million young women by 2020.

"Let's give girls who code a big round of applause. That's great," she said.

And before she answered her first question, from education activist Malala Yousafzai, Clinton added: "It's very exciting to me to look out at all of you here and to know that you're helping to connect the world and share ideas, and give me a forum from time to time, which I'm deeply grateful for."

Yousafzai had used thehashtag #AskHillary to ask what the world would look like when there were more woman leaders and heads of state. 

Clinton said more women leaders would make a difference in the world, and they would be able to lend support to people like Yousafzai, of whom she was a big fan.

In answering a question about social media's role in diplomacy and the business of the State Department, Clinton revealed hopes that for now appeared out of reach.

"It's really important for not just individuals, but organisations and even nations to have a social media presence. However, if it is used primarily to score points, to engage in the kind of back and forth that is marked by trade insults and, really, propaganda, sometimes misinformation, it's not fulfilling its best use of trying to connect people and overcome differences and try to resolve problems."

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She cited the conflict in the Middle East and "action by Hamas ... to provoke Israel ... to defend itself ... and the unfortunate effects of any conflict with innocent people caught in the cross fires".

"I'd hope, maybe it's a Pollyanna-ish hope, we see a maturing of the role of social media not just to score points ... but to try to create space for real conversations, where people actually listen to each other and where maybe there can be more outreach through social media and try to create reconciliation.

"I think we're sorely in need of that around the world right now."

She said the real promise of social media was to help people and nations "find our common humanity".

"There are a lot of people communicating, but they are not listening ... too often people use it as a weapon instead of an opportunity ... think of it as a tool of outreach, a tool of negotiation and maybe a tool of resolution."

Clinton gave no clues to herplans for a presidential run in 2016 when she answered the question: “If you became president of the UnitedStates, what would be your first action item on the agenda?” She said: “Answering hypothetically ... the next president should work to grow the economy, increase upward mobility, and decrease inequality.”

@HillaryClinton was a latecomer to Twitter. She joined up a year ago and, despite having only sent 86 tweets to date, has more than 1.6 million followers.

Her Twitter bio includes wife, mom, lawyer and political jobs such as US Senator and Secretary of State. It also has "hair icon" and "pantsuit aficionado" and, perhaps most tantalising, the last word in her bio is "TBD".

-MCT and theage.com.au

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