I Policy

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE- L. OGEMBO

By June 10, 2020 No Comments

According to Nicholson (1963) in his classic study of diplomacy, the term ‘diplomacy’ was used to describe a constellation of different phenomena including foreign policy, negotiation, means to pursue negotiation, one of the areas of the Foreign Service, and a talent for negotiation. Nonetheless, three of these uses refer directly to negotiation and the remaining two also involve aspects of negotiation. In this study ‘diplomacy’ refers primarily to international negotiation, to a communication system through which representatives of states and international or global actors, including elected and appointed officials, express and defend their interests, state their grievances, and issue threats and ultimatums. It is a channel of contact for clarifying positions, probing for information, and convincing states and other actors to support one’s position. Traditional diplomacy was highly formal, institutional, interpersonal, slow, and usually protected by secrecy. Williams (1971) elaborates that, in his famous ‘Fourteen Points’ speech of 1918, President Woodrow Wilson advocated ‘open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view’, thus heralding what came to be known as the ‘new diplomacy’.

In international relations, the term “public diplomacy” appeared to describe aspects of international relations, which manifests itself outside the interaction between state structures. There are actions that we attribute to public diplomacy and existed from ancient times. Leaders of Rome, for example, invited the boys of neighboring countries to do their studies in Rome. Although Public diplomacy is not new, Napoleon, when he invaded Egypt, planned to order the entire French army to convert to Islam to help establish French rule. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill successfully presented the largest empire the world had ever known as a plucky underdog to win over US hearts and minds. The term “public diplomacy” was first introduced to academia by   Edmund Gullion, a career diplomat and dean of the School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University; he described the term public diplomacy as “the influence of public attitudes in the formation and execution of foreign policies. It encompasses dimensions of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy that involves formation by governments of public opinion in other countries, interaction between private interest groups from different countries, informing people about international affairs and their influence on domestic policy, communication between those whose function is communication, such as diplomats and foreign journalists, and the process of intercultural communication (Dizard , 2001).

The term   later on dominated US government, providing the theoretical foundation necessary to external activity of the Agency of American Intelligence – USIA (US Information Agency – United States Information Agency) that handled between 1953 and 1999 the dissemination of information and broadcast media US official, taking over the role that Voice of America had it since the time of the Second World War. Because the activities of this agency were defined in public opinion basically as propaganda, a term that had acquired negative connotations, USIA accepted the term of “public diplomacy” as descriptor of its official activity. The US State Department defines public diplomacy as US government-funded    programs designed to inform or influence public opinion abroad (Wolf and Rosen, 2004).

Hans Tuch defines public diplomacy as a communication process of the government of a country with foreign audiences, trying to explain his ideas and ideals of respective nation, its institutions and its culture as well as national interests and policies (Tuch, 2010). Hans Tuch also defined public diplomacy as “official government efforts to train abroad communication environment in which US foreign policy is conducted in order to reduce the degree to which misconceptions and errors of perception complicate relations between the U.S. and other nations” (Tuch,2010). Objectives and national interests are disclosed to a foreign public through a variety of means, including international programs, cultivating journalists and foreign academics, cultural and educational exchanges, visits and conferences scheduled, and also publications.

Political scientist Joseph Nye (Nye, 2004) describes public diplomacy as a political expression of soft power concept which he introduced in the early 1990. In international politics, power is the ability of an actor to influence another to perform certain actions which would not otherwise be undertaken. So, hard power is the ability of an actor to compel another to perform certain actions and tactics that include military intervention, coercive diplomacy and economic sanctions. In contrast, soft power refers to the ability to convince the actor to take those actions. The combination of the two is the power of smart, an approach that strategically uses the most appropriate tactics of the two aforementioned dimensions of power.

The key aspect of the new public diplomacy is the concept of soft power. The term soft power, as mentioned above, was introduced by Joseph Nye at the end of the Cold War and refers to the ability of an actor to get what he wants in the international environment due to the attractiveness of its culture and its values, not because of its military or economic power (Nye, 2004). Therefore, public diplomacy may be the mechanism for the use of soft power by promoting cultural values of a state actor, by persuading the population to other actors on the attractiveness of its cultural values.

According to Ipu (2013) public diplomacy can be defined as the art of relating a State’s values, policies and cultures to the public’s of other nations without going through their governments. Public diplomacy is propagated through development of mutual trust, influencing the opinion of the public through sports, media and cultural exchanges as well as cultivating likability. Ishmael (2013) argued that public diplomacy seeks to promote, build and relay positive image of a country with the intent of influencing the opinion of international citizens abroad. In other words public diplomacy is a form of branding the image of a country with a view to appeal to the foreign citizens. Public diplomacy enhances relations between the states the foreign citizens, provides avenues of feedback on a state’s foreign policy and promotes cultural diversification.

According to Archetti (2010), diplomatic communication can be traced to the dawn of history by arguing that gathering, sharing and reporting of information have been the staple diet for diplomats since time immemorial. As early as the 14th century in Ancient Egypt there were the Amarna letters that were basically a collection of the cuneiform tablets that contained intelligence on how Egypt needed to maintain control of her empire in Asia (Jonsson and Hall, 2002). Consequently, the diplomacy in Byzantine Empire was grounded on information gathering and communication. According to Lewis (2008), the introduction of resident ambassadors by the Italian City States in the 18th century initiated the modification of diplomatic communication. The success of resident ambassadors particularly in bilateral communication resulted in the concept being adopted in the League of Nation’s framework.

According to Grech (2006) documents that wind powered sailing vessels formed the bulk of diplomatic communication a century and a half ago. This evolved as new avenues of communication such as steamships, telegraph, and telephone and air mail were actualized.  According to Nickles (2003) upon examining the impact of the telegraph on diplomatic communications indicated that it had accelerated international relations and overcame the challenge of distance thus opening up the possibility of messages travelling faster than people could by horses, ship or train.

Accordingly the print press, radio as well as telephones followed. The later innovations that have since been injected include televisions, early generation computer, digital computers as well as satellite. Modern day diplomats have a wide array of communication channels especially in respect to digital computers and phones that have access to the Worldwide Web. In more recent times, diplomats have started exploring the potential of the social media among other internet provisions such as electronic mail and video conferencing (Grech, 2006).This is a shift from traditional diplomatic communication to adoption of digital communication methods in the transmission of diplomatic messages and information.

Diplomacy traditionally had two faces, public and private, each with its own intended purpose. But this has generally changed in the recent past with the nature of world politics, due to globalization, advanced digital communication technologies and democratization have shrunk the distance between countries, leaders and their populations which has given rise to digital diplomacy. The evolution of the medium of communication is a key factor to affect the conduct of public diplomacy in the digital age. Without communication there can be no diplomacy. Yet the tools through which diplomats communicate are undergoing a revolution and, subsequently, so is the context of public diplomacy (Bjola, Cassidy, & Manor, 2019).

Interrelated changes in politics, international relations, and mass communication have greatly expanded the media’s role in diplomacy. Growing mass participation in political processes has transformed many societies from autocracies into democracies. The revolution in communication and information technologies, the capability to broadcast – often live – almost every significant development in world events to almost every place on the globe, and the creation and expansion of the Internet, have led to the globalization of electronic communication and journalism and to substantial growth in networks, stations and communications consumers worldwide.

According to Larson (2004) the wave of information revolution has facilitated the growth of digital diplomacy otherwise referred to as E-diplomacy, Virtual diplomacy or Cyber diplomacy. Electronic diplomacy (E-diplomacy) is the use of technology by nations to define and establish diplomatic goals and objectives and to efficiently carry out the functions of diplomats. These functions include representation and promotion of the home nation, establishing both bilateral and multilateral relations, consular services and social engagement. It entails the adoption of multiple ICT tools over the Internet to support a nation’s interests in other countries while ensuring that foreign relations are improved between the countries.

Digital diplomacy has expanded in the recent years as a result of innovation, internet accessibility and usage expands worldwide, particularly among young people. Twitter has attracted more than 330 million users just a decade after its creation.Facebook attracts nearly more than two billion active users. Nonetheless, the sharp digital divide between developed and developing countries that were witnessed before is narrowing down. From 2013-2015, the rate of internet use among adults in developing countries rose from 45-54 percent while Smartphone ownership rose to 13 to 37 percent. Citizens from developing countries are frequent users of social media platform such as Face- book and Twitter than North American and European counterparts.

Lately, Governments have been using social media platform not only for internal communication but also as an extension of international relations through posting their foreign policy online. Many heads of government or state have official twitter account, ministries such as foreign affairs, the ministry of foreign affairs in Kenya have an official twitter account for any communication, international development and trade just to mention but a few .Each of these ministries have a well organized bureaucratic arm that operates its Twitter accounts although Face- book appears to be less popular choice for digital diplomacy. The 2018 Twiplomacy report reveals 97 percent of UN members states have Twitter handles, reaffirming Twitter as by far the most widely  used digital diplomacy platform clearly indicating how technology has transformed the way state actors engage with each other .

According to Pamment (2016) Twitter provides a new space for diplomatic interaction, one reason for the growing use of Twitter as a diplomatic tool is the ease through which political leaders and practitioners can not only reach both domestic and foreign publics in terms of the conventional one-way information broadcast, but also interact with their constituents through a two-way dialogical form of engagement.Bjola and Manor (2018)  says that ,this is not to say that all political leaders and practitioners have necessarily moved beyond monologist forms of communication; certainly many still use Twitter as a direct messaging system. Rather, there are increasing opportunities for states to engage simultaneously with domestic and foreign audiences in an attempt to shape their online views and change, or maintain their perspectives on specific policy issue.

Graham (2014) elaborates how communication is fundamentally about power ,it involves who speaks, who or what is spoken about, and who is spoken to, are all informed by hierarchies structured through political, economic and social power. In some ways social media has increased the power of the audience—the domestic and foreign publics who view the tweets of political leaders and diplomats. The highly mediatized environment within which foreign policies are implemented arguably allows public opinion greater purchase than in previous years. States are becoming more and more responsive to transnational political and solidarity movements that have mobilized through social media, with the European refugee crisis a key example of government representatives engaging unilaterally and in concert with the public online discourses about the issue (Ferra and Nguyen, 2017).

Nye (2008) explains States themselves have also been able to harness this digital transformation of power politics by utilizing digital tools to represent themselves and their interests to a much broader audience, thus enhancing the scope of their ‘soft power’ reach. While many studies on digital diplomacy focus on how it is utilized by the developed countries, middle powers such as South Korea, Australia, and Sweden are equally adept at deploying digital tools in pursuit of their foreign policy agendas. South Korea, for instance, has developed its regional diplomatic influence in two important ways: firstly, by exporting communication infrastructures and materials to aid Southeast Asian technological and economic development, thereby ensuring its credentials as a key technological and digital knowledge resource in the region; and secondly, by engaging with the local digital platforms most used in the states it engages with (Melissen and Keulenaar, 2017).

States are using social media to improve internal security crises, for instance through the Kenyan government’s response to the Westgate Mall terror attack in September 2013. The siege of the Westgate Mall lasted four days and resulted in the deaths of sixty-seven people, with one hundred and seventy-five wounded. The Kenyan police and Kenyan Interior Ministry overwhelmingly used Twitter to communicate to the general public, updating information about how the crisis was evolving and providing specific directions for Nairobi residents to ensure their safety. For instance, shortly after the attack began the Minister of Interior tweeted, “I am at the scene and urge the public to be calm, give support to @IGkimaiyo and @ PoliceKE and we will resolve this quickly. cc @InteriorKE” (Simon et al…2017). Rather than communicating directly to the Kenyan government or sending out a video press release as has been utilized by terror groups in the past, Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter thus this demonstrate the wide use of Twitter by states as a way of conveying important message to its citizens.

In the recent past, there has been increasing instances where states curtail and paralyze internet freedoms with both democratic and autocratic regimes using various means to limit internet use.  China has banned the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Face- book. China has employed vast resources to censor the circulation of information online, with Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts describing the size and sophistication of such social media censorship as, “unprecedented in recorded world history.”Iran has strictly limited their use to prominent politicians, for instance President Hassan Rouhani has two Twitter accounts and one Facebook which he divulged to a World Economic Forum crowd in 2014 although he does not manage it himself. In Syria, Assad’s regime has used digital technology extensively in its attempts to suppress its citizens and dismantle the opposition Free Syrian Army at the same time it has control over state telecommunications and has extensively used technology purchased from a California-based company to further filter information and crack down on those who do not support the state ( Owen,2015).The above shows the relationship that exists between power and social media in terms of digital tools that state assert control over on what is to be communicated and what is not to  be put  outside their  to the public.

The use of social media platform such as Twitter by political leaders and diplomats can be instrumental in reducing tension between states and their representative counterparts.  Between 2013 and 2015, there were signs of growing rapprochement between Iran and the United States, as the two countries resorted to use Twitter to communicate more positive aspects of their identities and the commitment of each state. Tweets between diplomatic counterparts such as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry were a key indicator of a small, but nonetheless evident, growth of trust between the two state representatives that contributed to the signing of the nuclear deal. Sometimes the use of social media as the key communication tool elicits negative engagement between states. Tweets by political leaders and diplomats can just as surely mobilize the politics of difference to undermine the legitimacy of the other state and its foreign policies. Twitter allows users, government-officials or not, to post highly politicized images that can further undermine already fractious diplomatic relations between states. The diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia provides a powerful example of such a diplomatic social media image crisis. After Canada’s Global Affairs Minister tweeted public support for jailed human rights activists, siblings Samar and Raif Badawi, and called for their release, this was quickly followed by the Canadian Foreign Ministry’s tweet to “release all peaceful #humanrights activists,” Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador, expelled the Canadian ambassador, and proceeded to implement the suspension of a series of significant economic and investment ties between the two states.

Digital technologies have provided governments with many ways to reach targeted audiences across the globe and opportunities for participation in decision making. On the other hand new information and communications technologies amplify the messages of populist leaders, providing a medium for the diffusion of propaganda and misinformation threatening the control exerted by authoritarian regimes.

Public diplomacy conducted via well organized  state visits with glamorous events, such as the visits of President Uhuru Kenyatta  to the US white house ,or through cultural exchange program  at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya and the Chinese government establishing Confucius institute in Kenyan universities to promote learning of their culture in the country in the recent years is intended to project a well groomed image of a country and build ties .The audience is generally a country’s own citizens and its citizens living abroad ,with the goal of changing public perceptions and building a great national image .

Public diplomacy, where state and non-state actors use the media and other channels of communication to influence public opinion in foreign society’s .Public diplomacy involves direct communication with foreign peoples, with the aim of affecting their thinking and, ultimately, that of their governments. In terms of content, it describes activities, directed abroad in the fields of information, education, and culture, whose objective is to influence a foreign government, by influencing its citizens. The mass media and international broadcasting in particular – are just one of the channels used in public diplomacy. Mass media channels are used directly to affect the general public, while the other, mostly cultural, channels are oriented toward elite audiences believed to have influence on public opinion.

The use of mass media and other communication channels seeks to create a favorable image for a country’s policies, actions, and political and economic system, assuming that if public opinion in the target society is persuaded to accept that image, it will exert pressure on its government to alter existing, hostile, attitudes and policy. The idea is to use public diplomacy to provide the public in the target society with more balanced information on one’s own country, in order to counter the domestic propaganda of the target society’s government. A good example is Cold War, according to Tuch (1990) the US and the Soviet Union developed and extensively utilized public diplomacy in order to shape public attitudes all over the world towards their respective ideologies. Their main weapon was international broadcasting, including radio stations, such as the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe on the American side, and Radio Moscow on the Soviet side (Rawnsley, 1996). In the late 1980s the US government added overseas television programmes, such as WorldNet and Dialogue, to its arsenal of public diplomacy media channels. The Reagan administration established Radio and Television Marti designed to destabilize the Castro regime in Cuba, and President Bill Clinton established Radio Free Asia – primarily to promote democracy and protection of human rights in China – and Radio Free Iraq – to undermine Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Gilboa (2001) says a government uses its own means of communication, such as radio stations, to conduct public diplomacy, but in real sense it hires public relations firms and lobbyists in the target country to achieve its aims. A government preferring this method believes it is much more effective than direct government sponsored public diplomacy, and that it may help to conceal the true forces and the funding sources behind the effort. The establishment of a local support group or a movement in the target country could also strengthen the legitimacy and authenticity of the campaign. A local public relations firm is likely to know best how to achieve the desired goals in a given political and cultural context, how to identify the weaknesses in the positions of the government interested in the campaign, and how to deal with them effectively. Therefore public diplomacy also includes using scientific knowledge and methods of public opinion research known as ‘strategic public diplomacy’ (Gilboa, 2001).Such instance is Kuwait’s campaign for liberation in the 1990-91 Gulf conflict. President Bush needed sufficient public, congressional and media support to act to forcefully remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. To generate support from the American public for existing US war policy and to prevent this policy from being changed, the Kuwaiti monarchs in exile hired the American public relations firm Hill and Knowlton to conduct a major public diplomacy campaign within the United States (Bennett ,  Paletz 1994)

Many countries with image problems in the West and Africa are employing international public relations firms to conduct public diplomacy on their behalf. Suffering from a severe negative drug image, Colombia, for example, hired the Sawyer Miller Group to erase this image (Greve, 1990). According to Jeffrey Smith (1998) It was reported that the military rulers of Burma – suffering from US sanctions and often described in very negative terms as generals who took office by hijacking a 1990 election, keeping hundreds of opponents in inhumane prisons, and dealing with Asian drug lords – employed Jefferson Waterman International and the Atlantic Group to repair Burma’s image and to overturn US sanctions. Whereas in Africa, to specific Kenya, in an article published in the Washington post (20 March 2018) the British consulting  firm Cambridge Analytica confirmed its involvement in president Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 and 2017 campaign that included rebranding his party twice ,writing the campaign’s manifesto and speeches that helped hijack Kenya’s democracy. It manipulated voters with apocalyptic attack ads and smeared Kenyatta’s opponent Raila Odinga as Violent, corrupt and dangerous.

Public diplomacy may be perceived in different and sometimes contradictory ways by different actors. The Chinese government saw the pro-democracy demonstrations as American use of the basic Cold War tools of international broadcasting to inspire public unrest in China that would force the Chinese government to alter its policy towards democratic reforms. From the US perspective, however, the pro-democracy campaign in China was an example of the non-state transnational ways that opposition group in China using a media event on Chinese soil to exert public pressure in the United States on the Bush administration to adopt harsher measures against Chinese human rights violations. Unless one suggests that the Bush administration orchestrated the entire campaign to put pressure on itself, the application of the conceptual variants to the available data shows that the United States interpretation was the correct one  (Gilboa ,2001) .

According to Gilboa (2001) if the classic goal of public diplomacy is to get the public of a country to pressurize its own government to change its foreign or domestic policy, occasionally in this way, the goal is exactly the opposite, to direct public debate so that government policy does not change. In this case, the government of state A supports the government of state B, but many segments in country A oppose their government’s policy towards B. State B fears that under public pressure, government A may change its existing favorable policy towards B, so state B tries to persuade the public of A that B deserves A’s support. The reversed goal appeared, for example, in Kuwait’s public diplomacy during the Gulf War, when the goal was to prevent any erosion in public support for an American-led war to liberate Kuwait.

Gilboa (2001) gives an explanation of Public diplomacy being used primarily against authoritarian regimes to create awareness to the public on violations of human rights in Asia and against regimes such as those of Cuba and Iraq. The end of the Cold War, however, and the democratization of many countries in the former Soviet Union, in eastern Europe, and in other parts of the world, substantially reduced the main incentive for extensive use of this variant. In recent years public diplomacy has been used in nontraditional formats, including new participants such as non-state actors; new types of relations between state and non-state actors; new goals, such as cultivating support in a foreign country to maintain rather than change policy; and new means and techniques, such as the hiring of public relations firms.

Domestic public relations raise several ethical and professional problems. The activities of the public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton, hired by Kuwait during the Gulf conflict, became very controversial. One senior official of the firm explained that ‘we disseminated information in a void as a basis for Americans to form opinions’, and another added ‘teachers get awards. However critics argued that the firm established a fake popular movement, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, and used questionable evidence and suspect witnesses to influence public opinion in the United States and consequently to affect critical decisions in the United States and the UN (Grunig,1993).

Ways in which public diplomacy is conducted has always been controversial. Nonetheless, officials, researchers, experts and scholars seem to agree that it has an even greater role in the post-Cold War era. In an article published in the Washington Times (31 December 1996) under the title ‘A New Diplomacy for a New Age’, Lewis Manilow, the Chairman of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, argued that ‘people have more power to influence their governments than ever before’, and that America needs a new diplomacy and a new kind of a diplomat ‘who understands that a meeting with an environmental action group may have more long-term value than a meeting with the minister of the environment’, and ‘who can articulate a case to a newly free media’. In a article published in the Washington Quarterly, 15 (Winter 1992), Public diplomacy in its broadest sense has become a more important instrument for dealing with US problems in the post-Cold War era than the traditional military and economic tools .Nye and Owens explained that ‘America’s increasing technical ability to communicate with the public in foreign countries, literally over the heads of their rulers via satellite, provides a great opportunity to foster democracy’. Metzl (1997) also suggested that when great powers are unable or unwilling to intervene militarily to stop mass human rights abuses, the international community should employ ‘information intervention’, including monitoring and blocking radio and television broadcasts that incite violence and genocide, and countering them with peace broadcasting (Gilboa,2001).

Media diplomacy is frequently confused with public diplomacy. Cohen (1986) explained the differences between public diplomacy and media diplomacy in the following way: ‘Media diplomacy includes all those aspects of public diplomacy where the media are involved as well as others not associated with public diplomacy including the sending of signals by governments through the media, and the use of the media as a source of information’. Media diplomacy is therefore defined as ‘the use of the media to articulate and promote foreign policy’. Media diplomacy refers to officials’ uses of the media to communicate with state and non-state actors, to build confidence and advance negotiations, and to mobilize public support for agreements. Media diplomacy is pursued through various routine and special media activities including press conferences, interviews and leaks, as well as visits of heads of state and mediators to rival countries and spectacular media events organized to usher in new policy eras. Gilboa (2001) gives instances where the media provides the only channel for communication and negotiation between rival actors. During the first phase of the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, the United States communicated with the terrorists holding the hostages exclusively through the press. A similar case occurred in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner to Beirut. Officials often use global television rather than traditional diplomatic channels to deliver messages: during the 1990-91 Gulf conflict, US Secretary of State James Baker delivered the last ultimatum to Saddam Hussein through CNN, and not through the US Ambassador to Iraq. Similarly, in January 1998, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami chose CNN to send a conciliatory message to the United States. Media is one of the most effective tools to promote public diplomacy. For someone who despised modernity and globalization, moving to an Islamic country where television is banned, bin Laden has shown remarkable talent in the field of public diplomacy. Following the September 11 attacks, bin Laden used the Al Jazeera television to communicate their message to two audiences of particular importance to his plans – Western communication media and the general public in the Arab world. Uncensored and unrestricted in any of the countries in which it was received, the signal of Al Jazeera satellite transmitted directly to bin Laden’s pleadings about 34 million potential viewers in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

There are an increasing number of actors involved in digital diplomacy, from official government social media accounts, to wider and more indistinct audiences, to non-state actors whose online actions have both positive and negative consequences for diplomatic relations between states. Globalization and the wide use social media platforms have created a huge problem when it comes to how fake information spreads faster. Disinformation, also known as fake news, has tainted public discourse for centuries, even millennia. It is being amplified in our digital age as a weapon of fear mongers, mob-baiters and election-meddlers to widen social fissures subvert democracy and boost authoritarian regimes. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are under pressure to take action for the wide spread of false information through these platforms.

The  use of false information to deceive, mislead, or confuse is a purposive act, which blurs the boundaries between conventional propaganda and what might be better understood as “information warfare.’ Researchers at the University of Oxford this year found evidence of “social media manipulation campaigns” by governments or political parties in 70 countries, up from 28 countries in 2017, with Facebook being the top venue where the disinformation is disseminated. Discussion of government-directed campaigns usually starts with Russia. But the Oxford report singles out China as having become “a major player in the global disinformation order.” Along with those two countries, five others  India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have used Facebook and Twitter “to influence global audiences,” according to the Oxford report. Images are an important component to the spread of disinformation, further amplifying the reach of such information to audiences beyond the initial social media platform used to distribute the “fake news.”

Twitter and Facebook, in August 2019, revealed a Chinese state-backed information operation launched globally to de-legitimize the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Twitter said it had taken down 936 accounts that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong.” Facebook said it had found a similar Chinese government-backed operation and deleted fake accounts.  It said it doesn’t want its services “to be used to manipulate people.’’

According to an article in the Washington Post (October 2, 2019), A Rand Corp. study of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014, found the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin ran a sophisticated social media campaign that included fake news, Twitter bots, unattributed comments on web pages and made-up hashtag campaigns to “mobilize support, spread disinformation and hatred and try to destabilize the situation.” Another Russian effort targeted the 2016 U.S. presidential election, reaching millions of American voters with phony posts and ads that sought to exploit divisions on hot-button issues. For instance, Before India’s 2019 elections, shadowy marketing groups connected to politicians used the WhatsApp messaging service to spread doctored stories and videos to denigrate opponents. The country also has been plagued with deadly violence spurred by rumors that spread via WhatsApp groups. A study of 100,000 political images shared on WhatsApp in Brazil in the run-up to its 2018 election found that more than half contained misleading or flatly false information; It is unclear who was behind them.

In countries such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia, fake news on Facebook has become a battleground between Buddhists and Muslims. In one instance in Sri Lanka, posts falsely alleging that Muslim shopkeepers were putting sterilization pills in food served to Buddhist customers led to a violent outburst in which a man was burned to death. In Myanmar, a study commissioned by Facebook blamed military officials for using fake news to whip up popular sentiment against the Rohingya minority, helping to set the stage for what UN officials have described as genocide. The most sophisticated disinformation operations use troll farms, artificial intelligence and internet bots what the Oxford researchers call “cyber troops” to flood the zone with social-media posts or messages to make a fake or doctored story appear authentic and consequential. Under pressure from lawmakers and regulators, Facebook and Google have started requiring political ads in the U.S. and Europe to disclose who is behind them. WhatsApp now limits, to five, how many people or groups a message can be forwarded to. Facebook spent 18 months preparing for India’s 2019 election: It blocked and removed fake accounts, looked for attempts at meddling and partnered with outside fact-checkers to combat fake news

In conclusion, the evolution of the medium of communication is key factors that affect the conduct of public diplomacy in the digital age. Without communication there can be no diplomacy. Diplomats can now engage with the national citizenry and rally domestic support for foreign policy achievements. Given that some nations have taken to using digital tools towards disinformation, misinformation and propaganda, diplomats may use new digital tools to rally support from the national citizenry and ensure that the citizenry remains well informed. In a world that propaganda spreads faster through social media it is important for lawmakers and regulators to work hand in hand with these companies to help curb spread of misinformation.

 

 

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  23. Johnsson, C. & Hall, M.(2002). Communication: An Essential Aspect of Diplomacy. Department of Political Science, Lund University
  24. Nickles D. Under the Wire: How the Telegraph changed Diplomacy, Cambridge, MASS., Harvard University Press, 2003.
  25. Hans N. Tuch, Communicating with the World: US Public Diplomacy Overseas (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990).
  26. Frank Greve, ‘Slick Campaign Sought to Erase Colombia Drug Image’, The Miami Herald, 1 April 1990, p.3G.
  27. Jeffrey Smith, ‘Buffing Burma’s Image: Lobbyists’ Pot of Gold, Firms Take Aim at Washington’s Sanctions’, International Herald Tribune, 25 Feb. 1998, p.4.
  28. Jarol B. Manheim, ‘Strategic Public Diplomacy’, p.131.
  29. Susan B. Trento, The Power House (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), pp.381-9; James E. Grunig, ‘Public Relations and International Affairs: Effects, Ethics and Responsibility’, Journal of International Affairs, 47 (Summer 1993), pp.137-62. 32.
  30. Walter Laqueur, ‘Save Public Diplomacy’, Foreign Affairs, 73 (Sept./Oct. 1994), pp.19-24. See also Paul B. Blackburn, ‘The Post-Cold War Public Diplomacy of the United States’, The Washington Quarterly, 15 (Winter 1992), pp.75-86.
  31. Nye and Owens, ‘America’s Information Edge’, P.30.
  32. Jamie Metzl’, ‘Information Intervention: When Switching Channels Is Not Enough’, Foreign Affairs, 76 (Nov./Dec. 1997), Pp.15-20.
  33. Yoel Cohen, Media Diplomacy (London: Frank Cass, 1986), P.7. 38. Fortner, Public Diplomacy and International Politics, P.35.
  34. Bosah Ebo, ‘Media Diplomacy and Foreign Policy: Toward A Theoretical Framework’, In Malek (Ed.), News Media and Foreign Relations, P.44.
  35. Wood, A History of International Broadcasting (London: Peter Peregrinus, 1992), P.235.
  36. Eytan Gilboa, ‘Effects Of Televised Presidential Addresses On Public Opinion: President Reagan And Terrorism In The Middle East’, Presidential Studies Quarterly, 20 (Winter 1990), Pp.43-53. Patrick O’Heffernan, Mass Media and American Foreign Policy: Insider Perspectives on Global Journalism and The Foreign Policy Process (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1991), P.49.
  37. Neumann, Lights, Camera, War, P.L; and James A. Baker III, The Politics Of Diplomacy: Revolution, War And Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1995), P.367.
  38. Excerpts From The Interview With CNN Were Published In The International Herald Tribune On 9 Jan. 1998, P. 10.
  39. Twiplomacy Study Report, July 10, 2018, Twiplomacy.Com/Blog/Twiplomacy-Study-2018/.
  40. For A Discussion Of The Evolution Of The Combined Terms ‘Dialogicical’ And ‘Engagement’ See James Pamment, “Digital Diplomacy As Transmedia Engagement: Aligning Theories Of Participatory Culture With International Advocacy Campaigns,” New Media And Society18 (2016): 2046–2062.
  41. Corneliu Bjola and Illan Manor, “Revisiting Putnam’s Two-Level Game Theory In The Digital Age: Domestic Digital Diplomacy And The Iran Nuclear Deal,” Cambridge Review Of International Affairs 31 (2018): 6.
  42. Jan Melissen and Emillie V. De Keulenaar, “Critical Digital Diplomacy As A Global Challenge: The South Korean Experience,” Global Policy 8 (2017): 299.
  43. Olubukola S. Adesina, “Foreign Policy In An Era Of Digital Diplomacy,” Cogent Social Sciences 3 (2017): 8
  44. Tomer Simon, Et Al., “Twitter In The Cross Fire—The Use Of Social Media In The Westgate Mall Terror Attack In Kenya,” Plos One 9 (2014): 104–136.
  45. Simon Et Al, “Twitter In The Cross-Fire.”
  46. For An Analysis Of Al Shabaab’s Tweets, See David Mair, “# Westgate: A Case Study: How Al-Shabaab Used Twitter During An Ongoing Attack,” Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 40 (2017): 24–43.
  47. Pablo Barberá and Thomas Zeitzoff, “The New Public Address System: Why Do World Leaders Adopt Social Media?,” International Studies Quarterly62 (2018): 121.
  48. Taylor Owen, Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 11.
  49. Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret E. Roberts, “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression,” American Political Science Review 107 (2013): 1.
  50. Cociuban A, Gurgu E, West versus Islam, Proceedia of Economics and Business – PEBA 2015 (Publishing, Bucharest, 2015)

Cull Nicholas J., Public Diplomacy Before Gullion: The evolution of the Phrase., Us          Center on Public  Diplomacy, (Macmillan – Palgrave: Basingstoke, 1999)

 

 

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