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Digital Diplomacy: A New Era of Advancing Policy discusses how governments are beginning to adopt social media tools and new strategies related to them to accommodate the new digital age (Carnegie Endowment). Some of the major figures in international relations and communications participated in the panel, discussing the ways in which diplomacy has evolved over time, and how social media allows the government to broaden the array of ways it can be used to connect cultures, improve public awareness, and reach out to the people.
It also discusses the inherently disruptive nature of the Internet towards the national, sovereign, and government power, citing examples such as Wikileaks scandals, as well as other challenges presented by social media. The video discussed at length how the digital media has not only provided governments with new tools, but has forced them to change and evolve their methods, and reassess the role of diplomats.
Digital Diplomacy: Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign video continued the discussion of the topic of the transformative influences social media have on diplomacy and the State Department in particular, with the general question of the briefing is “How is social media changing the landscape of traditional diplomacy?” (U.S. Department of State). They continued the discussion of the power shift in communities, with the power moving away from institutions and into the hands of people, and how the former has to adapt to these changes. Fundraising efforts for the typhoon in the Philippines was mentioned as an example of savvy applications of social media to achieve positive diplomatic outcomes.
Again they addressed the darker sides of social media and how social media challenged government control around the world.
These two videos clearly show the US government’s concern over the growing power of social media. While the benefits it can bring to augment diplomacy, improve awareness and connect people are brought up numerous times by the members of the panels, they also have mentioned just how much internet and the social media put the governments of the world under a magnifying glass. The various diplomats employing the social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are put into a difficult situation, since the most effective uses of social media are often the spontaneous ones, while at the same time something relatively small, like a poor wording of a tweet, for example, can lead to a severe backlash from the general public.
Despite this, the State Department officials are adamant that if every government official’s tweets were checked and evaluated before being posted, this would be tremendously damaging to digital diplomacy. Both panels come to a conclusion that is both deceptively simple in wording and complicated to achieve: to teach people to take responsible risks and to be ready for small mistakes. They urged the diplomats to remain engaged with social media, to avoid missing opportunities when inevitable changes and shifts occur.
In my opinion, the fact that governments are engaging with social media and learning to not only project their messages into it but also to listen to the people and their feedback is a sign of a very positive change. The two panels show that the government officials and diplomats are taking the internet, social media, and the people using them very seriously. For the first time in history, the populace has an easy way to voice their approval or disapproval of their governments, and it is pleasing to see the diplomats and communication specialists accepting that and being ready to respond, even in the face of heated arguments, backlash and lack of criticism.
As the Internet and social media evolve, I believe that the role of digital diplomacy will only increase with time, and constant scrutiny from social media users will create a society of complete transparency. And it is pleasant to observe the people in power not only being prepared for such change but welcoming it.
Carnegie Endowment. “Digital Diplomacy: A New Era of Advancing Policy.” Online video clip. Youtube. 2012. Web.
U.S. Department of State. “Foreign Press Center Briefing on “Digital Diplomacy: Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign”.” Online video clip. Youtube. 2014. Web.