Diplomats and Twitter

Twitter has increasingly changed the setting of diplomacy. Diplomacy is no longer handled behind closed doors in a mist of pomp and circumstance. In today’s internet dependent world, diplomacy is occurring over the web, in real time and for everyone to see -even the little people.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power has recently sparked a conversation about if it is appropriate for diplomats, especially high-profile diplomats, to partake in dialogue with their foreign counterparts via Twitter. Ambassador Power this past week used Twitter to tweet her Russian counterpart after he made snarky comments about her meeting with members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot. This is one of the latest high-profile incidents of diplomats engaging each other using less than 140 characters.

Ambassador Power’s comment was in response to Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. According to NPR, Ambassador Churkin asked Power,”She hasn’t joined the band? I would expect her to invite them perform at the National Cathedral in Washington. Maybe they could arrange a world tour for them, you know?”

Ambassador Power replied, “Ambassador Churkin, I’d be honored to go on tour with Pussy Riot, a group of girls who speak up and stand out for human rights. Will you join us?”

The exchange among the two ambassadors brings up the questions as to if the banter that is now occurring on Twitter’s is appropriate for diplomats and is it conducive to effective diplomacy. A response to my question was given to NPR by, Alec Ross, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton for innovation at the State Department. Ross stated, in his NPR interview, that, “Twitter is really just pulling back the curtain.” He goes on to claim that the banter is normal and just “another day in the life.” Furthermore, he states that Twitter is an innovative way for Ambassadors to push and shape their messages.

As someone who myself is for the first time seeing the interactions of high-level diplomats, it is uncertain to me as to if this type of exchange hurts or helps the pursuit of world peace and prosperity. It will be interesting to see how this piece of technology continues to evolve the way in which we communicate.


  1. Thanks for your blogpost, I find these new social media aspects of diplomacy to be fascinating. Although Twitter is only 8 years old, it has become one of the most popular methods to keep up with current news. Diplomats using Twitter can be very beneficial. The phrase ”Twiplomacy” has even been coined to describe this new phenomenon. But with the benefit of quick and online communication, it can create an enormous amount of backlash when used inappropriately.

    In the past month, Secretary of State John Kerry reinstated his twitter, along with the tag #JKTweetsAgain. The article states that Kerry believed that direct engagement on social media is vital for modern leaders to take the “‘foreign’ out of foreign policy.” It is important to engage the public regarding regarding foreign matters and Twitter is easily one of the most efficient means to accomplish this.

    On the other side of the spectrum, PR Executive Justine Sacco was fired for a tweet linking AIDS with race.. Although not a diplomat, the former PR Executive is an example of a tweet gone wrong with over 2,500 retweets and many others calling her out. Sacco’s high profile status was apparently not a deterrent for her to post the insensitive tweet.

    With this incident and several others, it is understandably worrying for major diplomats to have control of their own Twitter. Insensitive or impulsive tweets can be damaging to the diplomat, as well as their home country, and can overshadow their cause.

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