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Twitter Diplomacy?

With the rise of technology, governments can now converse with a click of button, global leaders can issue statements with ease, and diplomats can conduct foreign relations. Using social media platforms like Twitter has drastically changed the way countries interact. But is Twitter diplomacy — or hashtag diplomacy, as it has been dubbed — a rather clumsy medium or a valuable tool?

While no one is quite as active in Twitter diplomacy as U.S. President Donald Trump, a recent tweet has begun to spark questions about the risks of using social media in conducting foreign relations. One short tweet sent with a click of a button resulted in a spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia. More precisely, one tweet resulted in Canada’s ambassador being expelled from Saudi Arabia, all new trade between the countries halted, flights from Saudi Arabia to Toronto suspended, and Saudi Arabian students ordered to leave Canadian schools and universities. Seems like a harsh overreaction for one tweet, does it not?

The conflict all stemmed from the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister tweeting about Canada’s concerns of the arrests of several human rights activist in Saudi Arabia in addition to calling for the release of the prisoners. While this is not the first time Canada has spoken out for the rights of others internationally, using a social platform like Twitter and broadcasting the tweet in both Arabic and English crossed the red line for the Saudi Arabian government. They were immensely offended that the Western nations would criticize how they were ruling their country.

As 8,300 Saudi Arabian post-secondary students scramble to relocate to other countries to finish their education and Canadians rush to find flights back to their homeland, many are left questioning Twitter diplomacy. However, from the start, using twitter when conducting foreign relations has always had its hiccups.

In 2015, the former Turkish prime minister and Greek prime minister got into a dispute on Twitter over their refugee crisis and Turkey’s continuous violation of Greece’s airspace.

In 2016, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad reacted to a fake news story about a threatening nuclear attack from Israel through a tweet saying, “Pakistan is a nuclear state too.”

Early in 2018, Twitter was used to rough up the already strained relationship between the United States and British officials in the UK. President Donald Trump criticized the location of the American Embassy in London and attacked the National Health Care system through a series of tweets.

In July of 2018, Russia reproved Canada for making “groundless accusations” in regard Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea – again using Twitter.

But is Twitter really the cause of these hiccups in diplomatic relations? Professor of International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Ronald Paris, thinks otherwise.

“Words are words. Whether that’s delivered in spoken form or in a tweet or in a speech, they always need to be considered with the same care” (CBC News).

As governments and dignitaries enter the age of Twitter diplomacy, their tweets hold as much impact as a public statement or speech. Proverbs 29:20 wisely remarks, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (NIV). With the ability to address the world at the touch of button, it is absolutely essential that governments measure each word that they tweet.

Sources:

https://www.muvi.com/industry-updates/device-and-platform-news/twitter-focuses-live-video-streaming.html (Image Source)
https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/saudi-arabia-tweet-sanctions-canada-twitter-1.4777825
Saudi Arabia-Canada spat: Here’s everything to know about the feud
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-canada-tweet/a-canadian-tweet-in-a-saudi-kings-court-crosses-a-red-line-idUSKBN1KV2FC
https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/11/politics/trump-uk-strained-twitter-relationship/index.html

One Comment

  1. A well done, thoughtful argument. Thank you!