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London Digital Diplomacy - Mapping Exercise

The EP Information Office in the UK hosted an event entitled London Digital Diplomacy - Mapping Exercise bringing together think-tanks and diplomats to discuss the nuts and bolts of modern diplomacy.

This was the second in our series of think-tank summits.

Click here to find below the programme, documents that were available during the event and videos from key speakers at the event.


Presentations from London Digital Diplomacy

Lynne Platt, Press Counselor, U.S. Embassy London


Panel 1 - Gathering and using information  on social media

Keynote Speech by Carl Newns, Head of Press and Digital, FCO

First discussion panel, moderated by Ruth Barnett (Switkey)

Noriyuki Shikata (Former Director of Global Cmmunications, Prime Minister's Office of Japan, Political Minister, Embassy of Japan)

Claire Wardle, Storyful

Alison Daniels, Chief Digital Officer, FCO


Panel 2 - Mapping digital diplomacy actors and practices in London

Gergely Polner, Head of Outreach, European Parliament Office & Alberto Nardelli, Tweetminster/Electionista & Matthias Lufkenk, Burson-Marsteller, Twiplomacy

Marlowe Hood and Joane Tilouine, AFP, E-Diplomacy Hub


Panel 3 - The future of digital diplomacy: how foreign service will look like in 2032?

Dr. Leon Watts (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath)& Andreas von Beckerath (Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Sweden in London)

Lynne Platts, Public Affairs/Press Counselor, US Embassy


Some thoughts on our Digital Diplomacy Mapping Exercise

Social media covers many aspects of work in a foreign office. In his recent study on use of eDiplomacy by the US State Department, Fergus Hanson has defined 8 separate fields (e.g. public diplomacy, knowledge management,) where eDiplomacy my be used.

At our first panel discussion, experts will look in detail at one of those fields: information gathering and verification. If you wish to read up on other fields, I suggest to start with this excellent study:

The second panel will take a London-specific look by mapping out the influential players and drawing some lessons learned from their activity.

Finally, we'll close with a "visionary" panel investigating the latest trends and possible developments in digital diplomacy.

We are lucky to be working in London, where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is also breaking new ground on Digital Diplomacy. I am delighted that Carl Newns (Head of Press and Digital, FCO) will be able to join us and give the keynote speech.

(A short remark on terminology: The State Department prefers eDiplomacy, while the FCO uses Digital Diplomacy - we will follow the FCO use as this seems to be more widely accepted in Europe.)

For those wishing to read up on the subject and learn more about the speakers, here are some thoughts and links.

Gathering and using information on social media

Social media can remake the way information is gathered. As Fergus Hanson writes, the State Department "has already begun conceptual work on the idea of "networked diplomacy"—that is, moving beyond the traditional siloed approach to information gathering in capitals, where every embassy closely guards all its information, to a networked approach where information is easily shared between like-minded governments."

However this approach carries serious risks, as well. It's easy to quote cases where the press, markets or even diplomats have been fooled by social media.
The most striking examples come from the markets, which, due to the extreme speed of trading, have been repeatedly taken in by a false tweet or jumped to early on news.
In August 2012, a fake Twitter account in the name of V Kolokoltsev of the "Russian Interior Ministry" has announced the death of Bashar Al-Assad, which immediately moved the price of crude oil:
During the March 2011 EU summit in Brussels, a tweet from Herman van Rompuy, that was later amended, was reported by one of the wires and immediately moved the Euro-Dollar exchange rate:

These are trivial mistakes, but there are much more cleverly constructed hoaxes out there that are more difficult to spot. Here are two posts by Storyful on some verification strategies

Our panel includes experts, who can dig into the nuts and bolts of these hoax stories:
Alison Daniels (Chief Digital Officer, FCO) will explain how the FCO finds, verifies and uses information on social media. Marlowe Hood and Joane Tilouine can explain how a leading wire-service like AFP would use social media and how its practices are affected. Noriyuki Shikata, Political Minister at the Embassy of Japan has served as Director of Global Communications at the Prime Minister's Office of Japan during the Fukushima disaster and is  one of those few diplomats who has unfortunately been in the eye of a global crisis communication effort on social media. Finally, if you have read the above linked two blogposts by Storyful, no need to explain what Claire Wardle will talk about.

Mapping digital diplomacy actors in London

We'll have speakers for three organisations, whose applications are  among the reference tools for tracking influencers.
Marlowe Hood and Joane Tilouine are the editors behind AFP's ediplomacy hub:!/
They will explain the working of their app and help us find the global influencers in London.

Matthias Lüfkens is the brain behind Twiplomacy ( of Burson-Marsteller, "the first-ever global study of world leaders on Twitter".

Alberto Nardelli is founder and CEO of Tweetminster (, which has the Twitter account most followed account by British MPs, and of Electionista ( that currently tracks political discussion on Twitter in 133 countries.

Using the tools and data of AFP, Tweetminster and Twiplomacy, we've found some interesting data on use of Twitter by diplomats and embassies in London, which we hope to discuss during the event.  

The future of digital diplomacy: how foreign service will look like in 2032?

The British, Swedish and US foreign offices are among those where we all look for inspiration when starting to use social media. Their foreign ministers and top officials/ambassadors are wired, tweeting, blogging and the foreign offices are constantly experimenting with new tools.

I am excited to hear from Lynne Platt (Public Affairs/Press Counsellor, US Embassy), Andreas von Beckerath (Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Sweden) and Adam Bye (Digital Transition Leader, FCO) about the latest trends.

Finally, I am happy to welcome a late addition to the programme, Dr Leon Watts (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath) who is currently leading an interdisciplinary project on digital diplomacy, examining the current impact and potential role of social media at the level of (a) how users interact with social media as tools of engagement, (b) how the autonomy of diplomats is influenced by different forms of social media (blogging vs. tweeting) and (c)how policy on the use of social media is evolving, especially across different member states of the European Union.

Gergely Polner
Head of Outreach