The U.S. State Department takes a lot of heat from us on the right, most of which is well-deserved. However, when someone within America's diplomatic apparatus does something that's simply awesome, it's important that we give them credit. The awesomeness in this case is courtesy of the American Embassy in Beijing, which used twitter to strong-arm the Chinese government into releasing accurate data on Beijing smog.
Residents of the Chinese capital have been demanding more accurate air quality readings provided by the local government. The need for improvement was obvious to the naked eye, as "days where buildings a few blocks away can't be seen have often been described by Beijing officials as 'light' pollution" (in fact, only in recent weeks has Beijing begun to acknowledge that the city's "fog" may actually be, you know, smog).
So what did the U.S. Embassy do to help make this happen? It set up a twitter feed – http://twitter.com/beijingair – that sends out hourly air quality readings taken from atop the embassy compound. Armed with actual accurate information, residents cranked up the volume on their demands for accountability and accuracy in published air quality information, and the local government caved, agreeing to begin publishing environmental information now that was not scheduled to be made public until 2016.
Well done, embassy staff.