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Twitter in Politics: Hype and Reality

Published on 09 May 2010
Updated on 19 March 2024

Tweeter is both powerful and risky as a tool for politicians.  This is the main message in the Economist article on Twitter. Although it focuses on politicians, many aspects could apply to diplomats as well. As an illustration of the power of Twitter, the Economist starts with, what else, Obama’s campaign, but it also mentions other prominent tweeters including Pinera (new Chilean president), Chavez and George Papandreou. The article concludes that twiteer is good for campaigning and opposition, which are usually in “digital” (black and white), but not an ideal tool for a messy policy discussion (very analogue – contradictions, paradoxes, etc.).

The risks of tweeting are numerous. Politicians, like diplomats, might tweet something that will haunt them. But the problem is that risk-averse tweeting (like all of social media) is not particularly attractive. Nobody reads bland tweets. People look for some spice. As any good chef knows making spicy and tasty food requires special talents.  It also applies Politikh Kouzina!


1 reply
  1. Vladimir Radunovic
    Vladimir Radunovic says:

    “Dangers of using Twitter
    “Dangers of using Twitter (and of remaining silent)” — May 10, 2010 by Marília Maciel — You are right about the risks of using Twitter in the political and diplomatic context. Diplomats learn the difficult art of being objective and vague at the same time, avoiding committing themselves too much. Such an art requires careful use of words, and this can hardly be achieved in 140 characters.
    Your post is very interesting and made me review the excellent discussions that took place in response to the poll “should diplomats blog?” [https://edip.diplomacy.edu/polldiplomatsblog]. It particularly made me remember the case of the member of the Indian MFA, Sashi Taroor, who made a comment about the strict board control measures in India. This kind of comments make his Twitter profile “spicy” enough to attract followers, but they have certainly put him in trouble as well.
    But what about the use of Twitter (and the creation of other forms of user generated content) by regular citizens [https://edip.diplomacy.edu/node/89], that end up having an impact of foreign policy? These bottom-up and highly unpredictable manifestations may pose a “threat” not to individual diplomats, but to the public diplomacy strategy of a country itself. In this context, what are the risks of remaining silent and not engaging on debate in cyberspace? How to deal properly with social media in a context of crisis diplomacy?


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