The artwork of “Twiplomacy”, diplomacy by tweeting – rts.ch

In the traditionally muted world of diplomacy, a new trend is emerging and challenging, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine: tweet diplomacy, sometimes referred to as the neologism “Twiplomacy”. The use of social networks by official Switzerland is regulated.

Formulated in a language that is not consensual, sometimes familiar, these new direct interpellations between the reports of different embassies blur the boundaries of communication and feed the different narratives of information warfare 2.0. Thus, the account of the Russian embassy in France, for example, has almost doubled the production of tweets since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

A few days after the start of the war, the Russian embassy in South Africa published a message on its Twitter account thanking those who supported the action of the country, which “80 years later continues the fight against Nazism in Ukraine.”

German diplomats react carelessly: “What Russia is doing in Ukraine is slaughtering children, women and innocent people for their own profit. It is certainly not a ‘fight against Nazism’,” we read in this tweet. “Shame on anyone who gets involved in this game. (Unfortunately, we’re pretty Nazi experts).” This post has been retweeted 40,000 times.

According to a analysis of the French branch of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (IDS), this production is combined with “trolling” and “astroturfing” mechanisms – operations that are mostly performed using bots that coordinate with each other to artificially trigger certain topics or opinions in trends – to increase audiences and virality.

>> Explanations in La Matinale:

More and more in trend “Tweet diplomacy” / La Matinale / 3 min. / yesterday at 07:00

A guide to Swiss embassies

In Switzerland, embassies have a digital guide that regulates their use of social networks. What does official Switzerland have the right to say about its various accounts? It informs the public, maintains relations with it – which is especially important when it comes to an embassy abroad that wants to maintain contact with Swiss expatriates – and learns about the opinions and concerns of the population.

The guide does not forget the best practices to be adopted. He specifically advises avoiding posting about Swiss culinary specialties amid the food crisis in Venezuela. Ambassadors can also write: “We are counting on your presence”, and not “January 3, we ordered a beer”, can we read in the guide.

Not everyone can be active on social media on behalf of Switzerland. Only a limited number of people have the right to do so, such as mission chiefs. And even if they are present in a personal capacity, there is no question of writing the famous “my tweets are mine” under their name.

Marigold in China

They and they publish on behalf of Switzerland, and must not in any way harm or go against the country’s political strategy. This can sometimes be complicated when there are four parties in one government. This was already a problem. The last known example dates back to four months ago.

The Swiss Embassy in Beijing posted a tweet criticizing human rights in China on the Chinese social network Weibo. She asked where the lawyer who had been missing for two months was. The tweet was censored about 24 hours after it was published.

>> Read again: China is censoring a message from the Swiss embassy on the social network Weibo

SVP Thomas Aeschi then attacked the Swiss embassy: has this tweet been discussed and confirmed by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)? No, its head Ignazio Cassis replied, because each embassy is responsible for the content it broadcasts.

But the federal adviser supports his troops as well as the content of the tweet. He also specifies that his services are always there in case of ambassadorial suspicion and in case of “shitstorm” (name of hatred, in French) on social networks, according to the practical guide.

Low response rate

Are the guidelines in this guide always followed? The directives encourage, for example, to always respond within a reasonable time to questions and checks asked, the FDFA does not respond frequently, if ever, to comments made to it.

In his defense, these are sometimes provocative questions, to which the perfect digital diplomat reserves the right not to answer.

Miruna Coca-Cozma and Muriel Ballaman / vajo

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