Diplomacy on the Internet
The internet has caused a significant shift in international relations. The international community currently relies heavily on technology to reach allies and citizens, as opposed to conventional diplomacy, which is focused on physical and paper-trail diplomatic relations. National diplomatic strategies are increasingly being evaluated in an effort to integrate conventional and digital technologies in the development of methods of contact with the international community.
In general, the internet has become the necessary thread that holds global society together. Nations can achieve almost nothing without the use of digital technologies. Digital technologies have also turned into social mobilisation agents. National government leaders now rely on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to transmit key national policies, etc. Prior to the emergence of technology, diplomatic operations were conducted in conference rooms or oval offices.
However, whether this shift is sustainable and fulfils states’ responsibility to conduct secure diplomatic business is debatable.
For the purposes of this article, it will be useful to define the internet, the concept of digital diplomacy, and the relationship between diplomacy and the internet.
The Internet is an enormous network that connects computers all around the world.People may exchange knowledge and converse through the Internet from anywhere with an Internet connection, Britannica says. The internet, which has completely matured over the previous two decades, has subsequently become a network of fusion threads. Humans and robots are becoming linked through an unparalleled data language. It has also changed the terrain of human contact, with robots acting as mediators between humans, receiving, processing, and delivering messages to their intended destinations. The internet also contains the secret to globalization; it has accidentally synergized the globe into one community of people throughout the years, bypassing and apparently harmonising global diversities. It has also broadened the scope of global commercialization. Nations and other organisations are increasingly relying on the internet’s platforms to conduct global and multilateral commerce. The internet’s growth was primarily owing to new technological inventions such as the “World Wide Web” (www), which offered a platform for simultaneous and diverse communication between entities. Britannica reports that the World Wide Web is a method for displaying text, pictures, and music that has been downloaded from the internet. A hypertext page, complete with text and hyperlinks, is produced in HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and given an internet address known as a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) (URL). ’ The internet’s goods, such as digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, all function as platforms for social connection, mobilisation, and participation. This influences national governments’ decisions to develop digital policies in order to not only capitalise on the potential provided by the internet but also to manage the related issues that represent risks to national cohesiveness.
There were 4.66 billions people using the internet globally in January 2021, accounting for 59.5 percent of the world’s population.
92.6 percent (4.32 billion) of this total accessed the internet via mobile devices.According to statista.com research, Northern Europe has the most regions with the greatest internet penetration. However, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, and Sweden have the highest individual internet penetration rates.
Furthermore, estimates from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) suggest that more than 75% of the global population has an active mobile broadband subscription, and more than 57% of homes have a home Internet connection.
The preceding statistics suggest that the world is increasingly reliant on the internet for global contact.
This has severe implications for national diplomacies since it requires governments to overtly or covertly adhere to digital consumer wants or habits.
However, as great as the internet’s potential is, it has also been considered as a destabilising force. The internet’s huge, open-ended, and evolving potential frequently collides with age-old principles of secrecy, cultural and traditional conventions, and belief systems. Conservative national governments have frequently used these flaws as a reason to restrict individuals’ digital rights.
Digitization and Diplomacy
The use of the Intertubes and new communications and information technologies to help in the fulfilment of diplomatic goals has been defined as “digital diplomacy,” also known as “Digiplomacy” and “eDiplomacy.”The definition focuses on the interaction between the internet and diplomacy, ranging from “internet-driven changes in the environment in which diplomacy is conducted to the emergence of new topics on diplomatic agendas such as cybersecurity, privacy, and other topics, as well as the use of internet tools to practise diplomacy.” -From Wikipedia.
Diplomacy approaches issues together. It departs from the adversarial approach to problem solving. Following World War II, diplomacy gained prominence.Faced with the devastation of war and man’s proclivity for using proportionate force, diplomacy evolved into a new forum for bilateral and multinational discussions. Conventional diplomacy, on the other hand, relied more on traditional methods such as face-to-face discussions, telegrams, and faxes. Although telegrams and faxes are technological products, they did not turn diplomacy into a digital entity. The reason for this was simply due to global internet penetration limitations. Although the internet has been around since the 1970s, it was not until the 1990s that the world experienced a fast evolution. Since its inception, many national governments have increasingly depended on its ability to reach a large number of individuals while avoiding the bureaucratic bottlenecks of traditional diplomatic routes.
Mr. Donald Trump’s four-year stint as President of the United States of America was perhaps the most prominent example of digitalized diplomacy. According to Wikipedia, the 45th President tweeted around 57,000 times. This includes almost 25,000 occasions during his administration. This would have been higher if Twitter hadn’t suspended his account in the aftermath of the supposed invasion of Capitol Hill by demonstrators associated with him and his statement about the results of the just finished elections. Although his suspension sparked some debate in the digital rights world, a detailed examination of his tweets found that many of his administration’s foreign policy initiatives were initially publicised via his Twitter handle. Many conventional news outlets, as well as official government channels, rely on his Twitter handle for policy choices. For example, the United States’ decision to recognise ‘Jerusalem’ as the capital of ‘Israel’ President Trump was the first to tweet about the subsequent move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Interestingly, many conventional businesses originally criticised Trump’s dependence on his Twitter handle, arguing that government topics were too important to be handled on social media channels. However, many government officials now find it more practical to use social media as a diplomatic route, taking advantage of its wider reach and capacity to organise voters. Government agencies increasingly have social media profiles dedicated to government policies and programmes.
Surprisingly, the COVID-19 Pandemic has heightened digital diplomacy. Because of the pandemic’s unpredictability, diplomatic transactions are increasingly being handled through the internet. Digital platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, and Facebook Live, as well as Tweet Conferencing, have become essential components of official government business transaction tools. The technologies have also helped to close the communication gap between the government and citizens, since individuals can now keep up with government operations via official government social media profiles.
Digital Diplomacy Gaps
Despite the assurances provided by digital diplomacy, the internet’s inherent flaws make it a paradigm that needs ongoing examination and upgrading. Some of the biggest obstacles to digital diplomacy, for example, are the issues of data privacy and security. The internet is still dealing with the actions of hackers that specialise in breaking into government accounts.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides guidelines to organisations throughout the world on the technological measures that should be in place to maintain network and data security.
Skilled hackers recently targeted not fewer than twelve email accounts of important federal institutions in the United States.Furthermore, several government Computerised networks and systems have been hacked by ‘Black Hat’ hackers using malware in the last twelve months. The majority of the intrusions targeted top-secret government material that had been released to the public or obtained by unauthorised sources. The prevalence of data breaches has prompted several countries to reconsider their policies. Policies for digital diplomacy
The twin challenges of societal digitalization and the COVID-19 epidemic have pushed digital diplomacy to unprecedented heights in diplomatic interactions. One of the lessons governments may have learned as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic is the need to not just strengthen internet protocols, but also to make the most use of the internet’s benefits and opportunities. As a result, although digital diplomacy serves the aims of social mobilisation and simple communication, there is also a need for continuous internet penetration in all corners of the world.