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Foreign Policy Analysis
Digital diplomacy

Digital diplomacy


Digital diplomacy is a phenomenon
where international negotiations – – have entered the digital age. Where diplomacy no longer takes place
behind closed doors – – as leaders tweet and
send out messages on social media. This is Rebecca Adler-Nissen,
professor of political science – – at the University of Copenhagen. The public was always important
for world leaders. So that’s not new. What’s new is that the engagement
with the public now takes place – – simultaneously as you negotiate. So you have a world leader
who is kind of sitting with two faces. A backstage and a front stage
at the same time. When they negotiate around the table,
they will have their smartphones – – or iPads in front of them
and tweet or update their profile – – while thinking about
what would be the best one-liner – – as they are negotiating, say,
a peace agreement. And that’s new. It all begins around 2007, when President
Obama is among the first world leaders – – to actively use social media
in foreign policy. It means that when you negotiate,
you no longer have that time or space – – to carve out a compromise
that you had before. You need to think of this space as
always transparent, always open. Traditionally, diplomacy rests
on three pillars. Time, space and tact. These are basically
what makes diplomacy work. All three pillars are being affected
and shaped by the digital revolution. When leaders compete to be the first
on social media during negotiations – – time gets pressured. And the confidential space
is being eroded quickly – – if you have tweets and leaks
from inside the negotiation room. And tact. There are limits to how polite
you can be with only 140 characters. Long and complicated language
doesn’t fit social media – – so you don’t have
that tactful language anymore. And that is fundamentally changing
the way diplomacy plays out today. The revolution of digital diplomacy
has also opened foreign policy – – to the whole world and made it
possible for everyone to follow events. What’s intriguing about this phenomenon
is that it can both be a force of good. It can open our eyes to conflicts far
away. It can make us more informed. And it can create more transparency
in foreign policy, which we’ve wanted – – for hundreds of years. On the other
hand, it can be a force of evil. It can be a force of conflicts and
misunderstandings and embarrassment. An example of how the digital revolution
enters international relations – – was when the Pakistani foreign
minister woke up and saw online – – that Israel was threatening Pakistan
with nuclear weapons. He tweeted immediately, “Israel,
Pakistan is a nuclear power too.” Had he double-checked the story,
he’d have realized it was fake. But the tweet from the foreign minister
was spread and seen as an example – – of Pakistan being under siege
or pressured. That’s how mis- and disinformation
enter the diplomatic room. The ultimate ambition
of what I try to do is – – to develop a new theory
of digital diplomacy. To understand the mechanisms
that drive this process. What are the pitfalls?
And what might be the solutions – – that make it possible for diplomacy
again to deliver peaceful solutions?

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