The Evolution of Digital Diplomacy in 2014
Slides of my talk (http://youtu.be/n9jBC4H0Ikg) at #LeWeb in Paris on 11.12.2014.
For more information about #DigitalDiplomacy check out http://twiplomacy.com
Thanks for having me. Good morning. A quick show of hands, how many of you follow Presidents, Prime Minister or Governments on Twitter or like them on Facebook? You will see in the next 20 minutes that Digital Diplomacy is now conducted in 140 character bursts. Twitter has become the best tool for broadcasting messages and connecting with peers. However Twitter Diplomacy is becoming less and less diplomatic and is dominated by Twitter trolling. 2015 might well become the year of Digital Warfare.
When I first talked about Twitter Diplomacy here at LeWeb in December 2010 there were 240 world leaders on Twitter. Today we have identified 650 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs. 83% of all the 193 UN member countries have an official Twitter presence. 130 heads of state & government and 67 Foreign Ministers have personal Twitter accounts. The question everybody asks, are they actually tweeting themselves?
Well, some do press the sent button as did Pope Benedict when he sent the first Tweet on the @Pontifex account.
And a couple of weeks ago, Queen Elizabeth sent her first personal tweet on the @BritishMonarchy account. But I have to admit very few actually write the tweets themselves.
Those who tweet themselves are mainly heads of state and government of smaller countries many of which are on the shores of the Baltic Sea such as: The President of Estonia. Toomas Henrik Ilves, seen here, taking a selfie at the Estonian Song Festival with 25,000 singers in the background.
The Prime Minister of Finland. Alex Stubb, seen here in Copenhagen, taking a selfie with his Danish counterpart Helle Thorning Schmidt who is not on Twitter and the reference to the
Alex Stubb also likes to show off his shoes, be it in Davos before attending the World Economic Forum…
Or showing off his newest weightlifting shoes…
Or his new bikes shoes in Lanzarote…
And relaxing by a lake in Midsummer in Finland.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia, @NajibRazak consistently posts selfies with his foreign guests. Including Barack Obama, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President François Hollande
For the record, he now uses a selfie stick to engage the crowds.
2014 will definitely be known as the year, when the selfie craze hit the higher echelons of government. Here is the entire Swiss government. Only one of the seven Federal Councilors is actually active on Twitter.
Russia’s Prime Minister posted a mirror selfie in an elevator to thank his 400,000 followers on Instagram.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made history when he took a selfie in the election booth. All these leaders have discovered Twitter to be a formidable broadcasting tool to reach an audience of thousands if not millions.
Foreign Ministers on the other hand have put the accent on creating mutual Twitter connections with their peers. The European Foreign Ministries have created what can be described as a virtual diplomatic network on the platform. They regularly @mention each other publically They mutually follow each other And they can send each other private, direct messages. Over the past four years Twitter has really become an indispensable channel for Digital Diplomacy and 21st century state-craft.
According to our Twiplomacy study, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is the best connected world leader. He can send direct messages to almost 100 of his peers. The EU’s external action service is second, followed by the Russian, French and Swedish Foreign Ministries. We don’t know how much back channel diplomacy is going on, but I can assure you I have received my fair share of direct messages from world leaders... and apparently I am not the only one…
The State Department is timidly re-establishing relations with Iran, unilaterally following Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Twitter. A year ago, during the Iran talks in Geneva they came to a preliminary agreement which was announced on Twitter. Interestingly they put a moratorium on social media communications during the negotiations.
In 2014 our leaders engaged in hashtag diplomacy and tried to #BringBackOurGirls
Or #EndViolence, especially violence against women as did the Slovenian Foreign Minister.
In the beginning of the year Western foreign ministers became key actors in the events unfolding in Ukraine. This is the former Polish Foreign Minister @RadekSikorski standing in front of the toppled Lenin statue in Kyiv. During the Ukraine crisis Twitter has become a diplomatic battleground where influence is measured in terms of followers and retweets.
The most retweeted Tweet sent by the Kremlin was the tweet announcing the incorporation of Crimea into Russia in March this year.
A week later the State Department countered with the hashtag #UnitedForUkraine, a hashtag that was tweeted by the US embassies worldwide and its key allies. What do you think was the Russian response? The Russian Foreign Ministry decided to hijack the hashtag and also tweeted #UnitedForUkraine to its 60,000 followers taking the punch out of the hashtag.
The confrontation over Ukraine turned sadly comic at the end of August when the Canadian Mission to NATO posted this guide for Russian soldiers who kept getting lost, ‘accidentally’ entering Ukraine.
The Russian mission to NATO replied with a tit for tat with this map. Helping our Canadian colleagues to catch up with contemporary geography of #Europe where Crimea is now part of Russia.
The confrontation turned belligerent in early September when @NATO posted new satellite images showing #Russia's combat troops in #Ukraine
The Russian embassy in the UAE replied with a picture of toy tanks, mocking: #NATO's latest evidence of #Russian armor invading #Ukraine.
For the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, however there is no doubt: #UkraineIsUnderAttack, #RussiaInvadedUkraine Please Retweet
When Russia retaliated against Western sanctions, banning food imports from the EU, apples were the key topic on the Polish government’s Twitter account.
And even the Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski took to Twitter to encourage his countrymen to eat apples.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev retaliated on his Instagram account with a picture of an apple tree stating that “Our apples are not worse than foreign ones!”
The hostilities on Twitter are also fuelled by an army of trolls. Estonian President Toomas Ilves is bombarded daily with abuse. He even posted a series of tweets showing the abuse he was getting. As a politician on social media you have to have thick skin.
A month ago, Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs made his coming out on Twitter. He received countless tweets of support from his peers… Not surprisingly he was mocked by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Twitter.
When the Prime Minister of Luxembourg was criticized by a right wing Greek politician for being openly gay, he shot back diplomatically: Hello, I heard you wanted to tell me something, but I don't speak Greek. Sorry.
The conflict over the mountain enclave Nagorno-Karabagh also played out on Twitter with a series of belligerent tweets from Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan almost declaring war via Twitter.
And lastly the war against ISIS is also being fought on Twitter. However despite the harsh words from John Kerry western leaders seem helpless against the radical Islamist propaganda machine.
But government leaders can also troll companies. When Apple announced its new feature of a digital signature for PDF documents the Estonian Prime Minister snarkily tweeted:
Dear Apple, If you are interested in how files are really signed digitally, contact any Estonian. Best rgds, Taavi
I hope that our leaders will not be discouraged by the abuse and will continue to lead. As the Prime Minister of Namibia summed it up nicely: Be a leader, not a follower. Lol.
I sincerely hope that in 2015 Digital Diplomacy will not turn into Digital Warfare. Thank you very much