Twitter diplomacy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague answers questions on Afghanistan and Pakistan for his seventh Twitter Q&A, 29 June 2011

Twitter diplomacy, or Twiplomacy, is a form of digital diplomacy, refers to the practice of conducting public diplomacy using the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) by heads of state and diplomats, as well as leaders of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).[1]

Public officials have used Twitter for a wide range of diplomatic communication. This includes, but is not limited to, making official announcements, sharing foreign policy updates, and communicating directly with the public.[2] As Constance Duncombe (University of Copenhagen) points out, Twitter does not simply provide yet another platform for dialogue between states but "challenges traditional notions of diplomacy according to which it occurs through formal channels of communication and informal face-to-face social engagements."[3]


The term Twiplomacy was coined in 2011 in one of the first studies of diplomacy on social networks.[4] The report shows how world leaders use Twitter to maintain diplomatic relations with other leaders and political actors. While the use of Twitter by world leaders and diplomats was on the rise as of April 2014,[5] Twitter diplomacy was only one aspect of the growing trend[6] toward digital diplomacy, also known as Facebook diplomacy, by many world governments.[7]

Twitter and diplomacy[edit]

Twitter activity of Michael McFaul. Re-tweets are not included.

As of September 2023, X (Twitter) had an estimated 528 million monthly active users.[8]

World leaders and their diplomats have noticed Twitter's rapid expansion and have begun using it to connect with the foreign public and their citizens.[9] After becoming a US ambassador to Russia in 2011, Michael A. McFaul was one of the first diplomats to use Twitter for diplomacy, posting tweets in both English and Russian.[2] According to a 2013 study done by the Twiplomacy website, 153 out of the 193 countries represented at the United Nations had established government Twitter accounts.[10] Additionally, the same study discovered that those accounts amounted to 505 Twitter handles used by world leaders and their foreign ministers. Their collective tweets had the ability to reach a combined audience of over 106 million followers[10]

Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi commented in a 2013 publication on the subject for the Geneva-based non-profit Diplo Foundation, that "social media exposes foreign policymakers to global audiences while at the same time allowing governments to reach them instantly. [...] Twitter has two significant positive effects on foreign policy: it fosters a beneficial exchange of ideas between policymakers and civil society and enhances diplomats' ability to gather information and to anticipate, analyze, manage, and react to events."[11]


In April 2014, tensions between the US State Department and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the 2014 Crimean crisis devolved into tweets, with both ministries using the hashtag #UnitedforUkraine to convey opposite points of view.[12][13]

In early 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decided to delete a controversial tweet relating to the country's nuclear energy program that received media attention.[14]

Use by governments and intergovernmental organizations[edit]

Twiplomacy's 2013 study provided new insight into the use of Twitter by governments. Twitter registration by region (as of 2013) included:[10]

  • Africa: 71% of governments
  • Asia: 75% of governments
  • Europe: 100% of governments[15]
  • North America: 18 governments
  • Oceania: 38% of governments
  • South America: 92% of governments

As of 2020, only four governments lacked a Twitter presence: Laos, North Korea, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Turkmenistan.[16]

By heads of state and government[edit]

Former US President Barack Obama is credited as being the first head of state to establish a Twitter account, originally affiliated with his 2008 presidential campaign, on March 5, 2007, as user number 813,286.[10] At the time he was president, he was the most-followed head of state on Twitter.[17]

Other heads of state and government to pioneer the conduct of Twitter diplomacy include Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo,[15] and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all of whom joined Twitter in 2007.

Former US president Donald Trump, whose frequent and often controversial use of Twitter during the 2016 US presidential election campaign became well known globally, frequently engaged in Twitter diplomacy during his years in office.[18][19][20][21]

By leaders of intergovernmental organizations[edit]

As of April 2014, the United Nations (UN) is the most followed intergovernmental organization,[22][23] with its website showing over 2.56 million viewers in April 2014.[24] Many of the UN's subordinate funds and agencies also attract large numbers of followers. The United Nations Children's Fund achieved greater popularity than its parent organization, the UN, and is followed by over 2.69 million as of April 2014.[25]

By diplomats and diplomatic missions[edit]


Former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, echoed the sentiment of many diplomats when responding to a May 2012 question about why he joined Twitter: "Today there are few alternatives as far-reaching and effective, with very wide audiences and young audiences, as Twitter. Twitter is another tool that enables me to communicate with other diplomats and journalists while also allowing me to add a personal touch."[26]

United Kingdom[edit]

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a consolidated list of all UK missions on social media.[27]

United States[edit]

The United States State Department, one of the leaders in digital diplomacy, maintains an active presence on Twitter. Although former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged American diplomats to tweet, she did not establish her personal handle until 2013, after she had already left office.[28] Moreover, former secretary John Kerry reactivated his personal Twitter handle after one year on the job.[29] Former US ambassador to the Russian Federation, Michael McFaul, pioneered the use of Twitter for American ambassadors with a steady stream of English and Russian tweets during his 2011–2014 tenure.[30][31] An academic by trade and not a career diplomat, Ambassador McFaul's tweets were generally blunt and unpolished—uncommon characteristics in the diplomatic world—earning both frequent criticism from the Russian government and praise from his supporters.[31]


Chinese diplomats use Twitter as a tool for public diplomacy. Yet, this is a relatively new trend. In 2013, Xi Jinping announced that the Internet was one of the "battlefields for the public opinion struggle" and encouraged the Party to "make online public opinion work" for China's advantage, by "spreading China’s voice" and reclaiming its "right to speak to the world".[32] Shortly thereafter, Chinese diplomats worldwide initiated the establishment of Twitter accounts, actively participating in global discussions concerning a range of international matters while also narrating China's rise.[33] They share statements, press releases, and official documents, ensuring that China's perspective is heard by a global audience. They also respond to news articles, commentaries, or statements from other governments to present China's perspective and offer counterarguments. Scholars point out that Chinese diplomats digitalized the so-called "panda diplomacy" on Twitter[34] and hijack hashtags used by human rights activists, such as #Tibet or #Xinjiang, by posting attractive visuals or human-interest stories.[35] The significance of China's Twitter diplomacy became especially pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese diplomats have adeptly utilized Twitter to provide real-time updates, disseminate official statements, and elucidate China's stance. They also engaged in debates, disputes, and even confrontations with representatives of countries or international media.[36][37][33][38] Chinese diplomats have extended their adept use of social media platforms beyond Twitter, employing a multifaceted approach to engage with global audiences. In similar fashion, they actively leverage platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok to reach a diverse range of individuals worldwide.[39][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keleman, Michele (21 February 2014). "Twitter Diplomacy: State Department 2.0". National Public Radio. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b Landler, Mark (4 February 2014). "In the Scripted World of Diplomacy, a Burst of Tweets". International New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  3. ^ Duncombe, Constance (2017). "Twitter and transformative diplomacy: social media and Iran–US relations". International Affairs. 93 (3): 545–562. doi:10.1093/ia/iix048.
  4. ^ Wang, Chu (20 May 2019). "Twitter Diplomacy: Preventing Twitter Wars from Escalating into Real Wars". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  5. ^ Manor, Ilan; Crilley, Rhys (December 2018). "Visually framing the Gaza War of 2014: The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter". Media, War & Conflict. 11 (4): 369–391. doi:10.1177/1750635218780564. ISSN 1750-6352. S2CID 149768211.
  6. ^ Chhabra, Radhika. "Twitter Diplomacy: A Brief Analysis". ORF. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  7. ^ "Social Media Use by Governments: A Policy Primer to Discuss Trends, Identify Policy Opportunities and Guide Decision Makers | READ online". Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  8. ^ Shewale, Rohit (September 16, 2023). "Twitter Statistics In 2023 — (Facts After "X" Rebranding)". Demand Sage. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  9. ^ Duncombe, Constance (2017-10-05). "How Twitter enhances conventional practices of diplomacy". OUPblog. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  10. ^ a b c d "Twiplomacy Study 2013". Burson-Marsteller. 23 June 2013. Archived from the original on 20 March 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  11. ^ Sandre, Andreas; et al. (Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata) (2013). Murphy, Mary (ed.). Twitter for Diplomats. DiploFoundation, Istituto Diplomatico. ISBN 978-99932-53-27-3. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  12. ^ Ishaan, Tharoor. "Russia hijacks U.S. State Department's Ukraine hashtag". Washington Post. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  13. ^ (26 April 2014). "Obama's hashtag diplomacy with Russia sparks new criticism about weak foreign policy". Fox News. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  14. ^ Loguirato, Brett. "Iran's President Deleted A Controversial Tweet". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  15. ^ a b Tutt, A. (2013), E-Diplomacy Capacities within the EU-27: Small States and Social Media. (Thesis). 23 May 2014. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
  16. ^ "Twiplomacy Study 2020". Twiplomacy. October 15, 2023. Archived from the original on October 15, 2023. Retrieved October 15, 2023.
  17. ^ Miles, Tom (26 July 2012). "@tweeter-in-chief? Obama's outsourced tweets top twitocracy". Reuters. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  18. ^ McCaskill, Nolan (2 May 2017). "Clinton slams Trump's Twitter diplomacy: 'That doesn't work'". Politico. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  19. ^ Rebecca Kheel; Ellen Mitchell (6 June 2017). "Trump's diplomacy-by-Twitter sets off firestorm". The Hill. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  20. ^ Apps, Peter. "Commentary: Trump's brave new world of Twitter diplomacy". Reuters. No. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  21. ^ Romero, Luis Gomez (27 January 2017). "Twitter diplomacy: how Trump is using social media to spur a crisis with Mexico". The Conversation. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  22. ^ N, Sofia (23 May 2023). "Cheat Sheet To Gaining More Engagement on Twitter". Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  23. ^ Lüfkens, Matthias (20 November 2013). "Twiplomacy 2013 - How International Organizations use Twitter" (PDF). Burson-Marsteller. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  24. ^ "United Nations (UN) on Twitter".
  25. ^ "UNICEF (UNICEF) on Twitter".
  26. ^ Tracy, Marc (30 May 2012). "Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Talks About Why He Joined Twitter". The Tablet. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  27. ^ "Social media use". UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  28. ^ Thomas, Ken (2013). "Hillary Clinton starts Tweeting". AP. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  29. ^ Gearan, Anne (4 February 2014). "John Kerry unleashed on Twitter once again". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  30. ^ Elder, Miriam (29 May 2012). "Michael McFaul, US ambassador to Moscow, victim of Kremlin 'Twitter war'". Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  31. ^ a b Lally, Kathy (11 January 2014). "U.S. ambassador in Moscow uses social media to bypass official line". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  32. ^ Xi, Jinping (4 November 2013). "Full Text of Xi Jinping's 8-19 Speech on the Web". China Digital Times. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  33. ^ a b Gill, Bates (16 June 2020). "China's Global Influence: Post-COVID Prospects for Soft Power". The Washington Quarterly. 43 (2): 97–115. doi:10.1080/0163660X.2020.1771041.
  34. ^ Huang, Zhao Alexandre; Wang, Rui (2020). "'Panda Engagement' in China's Digital Public Diplomacy". Asian Journal of Communication. 30 (2): 118–140. doi:10.1080/01292986.2020.1725075.
  35. ^ a b Ohlberg, Mareike (5 December 2019). "Propaganda beyond the Great Firewall: Chinese Party-State Media on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube". Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS). Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  36. ^ Scott, Mark (29 April 2020). "Chinese diplomacy ramps up social media offensive in COVID-19 info war". Politiko.
  37. ^ Palmer, Alex (7 July 2021). "The Man Behind China's Aggressive New Voice". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  38. ^ Alden, Christopher; Kenddrick, Chan (June 2021). "Twitter and digital diplomacy: China and COVID-19". LSE Strategic Update.
  39. ^ Kuteleva, Anna (2023). "China's Experiments with Social Media: Singing Along with Xi Jinping About the Belt and Road Initiative". China Report. 59 (1): 80–94. doi:10.1177/00094455231155806.

Further reading[edit]