digital diplomacy and new tech

Recent years have brought many prominent examples of political mobilization online, but most future growth in Internet users will come in countries with repressive and authoritarian regimes. Some democracies are attempting to mobilize soft power to reinforce real security concerns about less-than-friendly regimes around the world, and especially in Asia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be combining a well-calibrated soft power push with his visit to China, leveraging social media, Bollywood and yoga to reach out to ordinary Chinese citizens.

New warnings from U.S. officials and lawmakers over tactics used by Islamic State online are putting renewed focus on the terror network’s activities. FBI Director James Comey warned Thursday that ISIS is increasing their reliance on social media to spread their “poison” message.

The increasing availability of data is pushing the boundaries of what was once imagined possible in public diplomacy. Data science has the potential to draw large data sets into the study and practice of diplomacy, and allow diplomats and scholars to become comfortable engaging with and analyzing increasingly large and often unstructured data. 

The State Department has people now whose job is to challenge false online claims about the U.S. and our policies. If they’ve been successful, they should expand that effort. It won’t be easy: It has to be done fast and adroitly (two skills not always conjoined in the State Department) to be effective.

Instead of bringing together love-starved singles, the project would introduce strangers with shared interest in development, including for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, governments and international agencies.

When writing about digital diplomacy, scholars tend to focus on its present practice and future potential. Yet we may also benefit from exploring its past and identifying the processes and events that have contributed to its evolution.