Talk at UN in New York


The Second Stage of #DigitalDiplomacy- Lessons for the UN

Ilan Manor

University of Oxford

Digital diplomacy is by no means a novel phenomenon. Rooted in the attempt to harness digital tools to realize public diplomacy goals, digital diplomacy has been practiced by some diplomats for more than a decade. However, recent years have seen a transition from online presence to online influence.

The first stage of digital diplomacy focused on establishing a formidable online presence. MFAs (Ministries of Foreign Affairs), embassies and diplomats were primarily occupied with “being online”. Operating multiple social media accounts was the order of the day, while attracting thousands of followers on Twitter was a sign of digital mastery. As such, MFAS soon found themselves operating social media empires. For instance, in 2012 it was estimated that the US State Department was managing more 1,000 social media accounts.

The first stage of digital diplomacy ended in 2014 with the Crimean Crisis; diplomats and MFAs began harnessing digital tools, and social media, towards strategic ends. The goal was no longer mere presence, but an ability to craft messages that would resonate with pre-defined audiences. Additionally, diplomats sought to influence coverage of the crisis through continuous online engagement with journalists and opinion makers. The quality of one’s online following was now more important than the quantity of followers.

The second stage of digital diplomacy has been characterized by the professionalization of online diplomatic activities. Diplomats are looking for the best ways to use digital diplomacy to achieve pre-defined and measurable goals and to transition from digital tactics to digital strategies. However, the second stage of digital diplomacy has also seen the resurgence of propaganda. Diplomats and MFAs are increasingly using social media to contest reality, rather than narratives. As such, diplomacy may be following the societal trend of “alternative facts”.

This talk aims to reflect on the second stage of digital diplomacy. It shall begin with an analysis of the manner in which digital diplomacy can be used to achieve pre-defined and measurable goals. Next, it will introduce new tools and concepts for the evaluation of digital activities with a focus on multi-lateral diplomacy. Then, it will examine the use of digital tools to combat “alternative facts” and will conclude with a set of recommendations for increasing the digital output and outcomes of missions in multi-lateral forums.

The talk will be held in room 2726 on the 27th floor of the Secretariat building at 3 pm

To attend the talk on February 24th at the United Nations in New York, email