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Unprecedented Web Outreach For Obama's Speech

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- The White House has launched a sweeping plan to harness the ever-growing worldwide reach of social networks to promote President Obama's major speech to the Muslim world tomorrow in Cairo. It is an unprecedented effort to market a presidential address.

Top officials who briefed reporters during the president's stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia describe a "high profile" strategy to spread Mr. Obama's message. Spokesman Robert Gibbs described a "fairly sophisticated outreach."

The strategy includes using social networking pages that will allow people to monitor and comment on the speech. Speech excerpts and full transcripts will be posted. The administration will turn to Facebook, My Space and Twitter. A spokesman says Facebook is the largest social network in the Muslim world with nearly 20 million users.

The administration will also use a social network that is popular in South Asia.

A State Department program will allow international callers to register to receive free text messages on the president's speech in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, English and other languages. The registration link is here.

Video of the speech will be live streamed on the White House web site. It will also be posted on You Tube.

U.S embassies in Muslim countries have been tasked to promote the availability of speech translations.

Mr. Obama will use the speech to elaborate on his inauguration day call for "a new way forward" with the Muslim world. Senior aides who have worked with the president on the speech say it will be a broad message on key issues including prospects for Middle East peace.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said, "There has been an undeniable breach between America and the Islamic world and that breach has been years in the making."

But Axelrod also lowered expectations for any immediate impact from the speech. He said the breach "is not going to be reversed with one speech. It's not going to be reversed perhaps in one administration."

Officials also indicate the president will point to his own roots as he seeks a new opening to the Muslim world. A senior official said, "There's no question he (the president) has a unique background that has value. It helps open the door of possibility and understanding because of who he is and his background."

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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