lighting, Diplomacy

From Telegraph to Twitter

30 June 2014 -

WMO, 7 bis Avenue de la Paix, Geneva

Event description


The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) hosted a luncheon seminar entitled ´From the Telegraph to Twitter: Is There a Lesson for the Internet Era from the Telegraph and the Outbreak of the First World War?´, in partnership with the Austrian and the Serbian Permanent Missions to the UN.

In 2014, we will mark the 200th anniversary of the Congress of Vienna, one of the most successful events in diplomatic history, as well as the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, one of the greatest failures of diplomacy.

Like the Internet today, the telegraph played a vital role in shaping geopolitics between these two major events. While the telegraph enabled faster communication among capitals, it also created confusion and misunderstanding.

Some authors, such as Stephen Kern, argue that ‘telegraph confusion’ contributed to the July Crisis and the outbreak of World War I in 1914: ‘This telegraphic exchange at the highest level dramatised the spectacular failure of diplomacy, to which telegraphy contributed with crossed messages, delays, sudden surprises, and unpredictable timing.’

One of a few lessons that we have learned from the telegraph and the events of 1914, is that speed and immediacy do not always provide positive results.

Photo gallery of the event

Webcast of the event:

YouTube player


12.30 – 13.00 Refreshments

13.00 – 14.00 Seminar

  • Welcome by the Permanent Representatives of Austria and Serbia
  • Historical perspective by Honorary Professor André Liebich, Graduate Institute – Geneva
  • Presentation of the study: ‘Telegraph development in the period 1900-1914: parallels with and differences to Internet developments’ by Jovan Kurbalija, DiploFoundation
  • Discussion


Registrations are now closed.
More information: Tereza Horejsova at