|Tweet diplomacy |
NICOLE DYER GRIFFITH, MA Thursday, January 12 2017
‘Twiplomacy’ refers to the use of Twitter and other social media sites by government agencies and officials to engage with the public, disperse information and even leverage global influence. The term emerged from an August 2012 report from Geneva-based public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, which studied world leaders on Twitter and attempted to illustrate how social media is closing the gap between these leaders and the public they serve. [ www. techopedia.com]
Social media can no longer be termed ‘New Media’ - rather, it has quickly become ‘The Media,’ quickly eroding the efficacy of ‘Traditional Media’, so much so, that on a number of occasions, the traditional print and electronic media utilises feeds and stories first ‘reported’ upon by the new media channels including, Facebook, Twitter, and the many others. According to the ‘twiplomacy study of 2016’, Twitter has become the number one channel of choice for governments and foreign ministries, based on the number of governments on the platform. In most instances, many of these governments utilise the tool to engage in quick, but managed interactions, citing that the audience reach is wider and more diverse. While some may be slow in adopting this platform as a form of genuine foreign affairs interaction, my point is based on the significantly increased influence social media tends to have on opinions, views, and now, diplomacy.
Media contributors are viewed as opinion shapers. As such, the influence of the opinions offered is usually reflected in some element of society. In recent time, we have seen the political class begin to understand and appreciate the impact of social media. This can be underscored by the very effective use of this platform during the 2008 US Presidential elections continuing to this date, with many other world leaders adopting the network to share measured feedback with their ‘followers’. We are seeing the use of social media, particularly the twitter platform, for more than outreach and support bolstering, to now actually being used as a tool engaging in diplomatic [ or undiplomatic] engagement.
In one my earlier contributions, I spoke about the changing framework of diplomacy, particularly from the perspective of the changing tone of politics. However, since the publishing of that piece, the use of twitter, has become almost a weapon of communication, inciting quite a number of diplomatic actions, statements and reactions to statements – all of which would not normally have transpired within the public domain without first being sanitised and passed through ‘normal’ channels.
President-elect of the United States, Donald J Trump, has indeed mastered the art of utilising the Twitter platform to make clear his intentions, responses, feelings and thoughts, with many of his ‘tweets’ clearly identifying his positions on matters within a foreign affairs framework, for example, his recent ‘tweet’ on January 7, “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only “stupid” people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....” This tweet clearly speaks to matters of a foreign affairs policy-based nature, and not simply information sharing.
Another tweet on January 2, states, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US It won’t happen!” Another heavily defense policy-based statement which can be viewed from the perspective of demonstrating strength and patriotism, to reckless abandon. The question remains: is this correct? In some instances, as mentioned, other world leaders have responded to a few of the tweets that may have been directed to them or their countries. A few leaders have responded via twitter and others using the more standard forms of public address which essentially legitimises the communication loop with the simple formula of message, sender, receiver and feedback.
Interrogating the content of the messages from one Head of State to another, is an entirely separate issue, as the language of diplomacy can be seen to be changing before our very eyes. However, the traditional forms of diplomacy have also changed quite dramatically, and one wonders on the impact of this change on the development and strengthening of global relationships, particularly, as Twitter only affords 120 characters. Could a diplomatic bridge, built over many years of careful negotiation, State visits, shared partnerships, joint ventures, United Nations based agreements, be undone by 120 characters on twitter? We are certainly about to find out.