What are the definitions of Digital Diplomacy and Twiplomacy? What is an example of Twiplomacy in action in a negotiation forum? How did the example play out? What is the substance and future...

What are the definitions of Digital Diplomacy and Twiplomacy? What is an example of Twiplomacy in action in a negotiation forum? How did the example play out? What is the substance and future potential of Digital Diplomacy? Is virtual diplomacy a good development when observed in action or a poor one?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Social media has changed the face of how acts of international diplomacy have been initiated. In times past, as The Economist phrases it, "governments left diplomacy to the cagey and the discreet, who mostly met behind closed doors" ("Digital Diplomacy: Virtual Relations"). But, now, diplomats are interacting more publicly on "Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and local social-media services" ("Digital Diplomacy"). Due to social media, diplomacy is no longer defined as negotiations between government officials; instead, diplomats are now "communicating directly with the citizens of another country" ("Digital Diplomacy"). Social media has greatly improved communication channels because, in the past, state officials could only communicate via print news, radio, or television. Their opportunity to communicate depended on how important the issue was that they were communicating about because they would have to bargain for air time to allow their voices to be heard. Typically, state officials were only able to communicate to the public in times of crises. Today, however, state officials can freely communicate, any time any place, using social media.

Hence, Digital Diplomacy, also called ediplomacy, can be broadly defined as making use of the Internet and social media to undertake diplomatic initiatives. It is also important to note that digital diplomacy falls under four different categories: "direct foreign engagement with a target country, domestic awareness of foreign policy, domestic public diplomacy ..., and engagement of diaspora communities at home and abroad" (Envoy Centre for Digital Diplomacy, "What is Digital Diplomacy?").

Twiplomacy is defined as using Twitter for diplomatic communications. The trend was initiated by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009. According to Anne Marie Slaughter, past dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Clinton used Twitter to "introduce policies, programs, and institutional reforms designed to support government-to-society and society-to-society diplomacy" (as cited in Diplo: Towards More Inclusive and Effective Diplomacy, "Twiplomacy is Bringing Diplomacy Back to Relevancy"). However, it's very important not to see either Digital Diplomacy or Twiplomacy as a replacement for traditional diplomatic relations. These methods are simply ways to initiate agendas and get citizens involved. Traditional government-to-government diplomatic relations are still highly necessary for achieving diplomatic goals.

Several examples of Twiplomacy in action include state officials exclusively using Twitter to update the public on negotiations during the Iran Nuclear talks in Lausanne, Hillary Clinton using Twitter to announce her 2016 presidential campaign, and Twitter being used to publicize Present Obama's meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro. 

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