Nouvelle Europe dossier
Digital Diplomacy in Europe
THIS ISSUE INCLUDES: FOREWORD BY ANDREAS PACHER
Sub-state public diplomacy: The Catalan case by Balázs Gyimesi
La e-diplomatie estonienne à l’heure de la fin des territoires par Eric Crozon
Where does Europe stand in the Chinese digital environment? by Manon Bellon
Tweeting about Security and Defence: The Digital Influence of EU Member States during the 2017 NATO Summit by Pierre H. N. Martin
L’engagement politique sur le web : remplacement ou élargissement de la société civile ? par Patricia Gautier
The discursive creation of #Visegrád by Andreas Pacher
Ukraine ban on Russian websites: a matter of national security or a sign of rising authoritarianism? by Inga Chelyadina
Social media in government communications in Ukraine: expert opinions by Yana Hryshko
Nouvelle Europe is an international and interdisciplinary organization founded in Paris in 2003, the year before a number of countries from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) joined the European Union. It has since then continuously organized conferences and simulation seminars in various countries on topics surrounding CEE and its relations to the EU. Nouvelle Europe’s online-journal has been active since 2006, providing informed analyses and original reflections often on the basis of recent academic research and internally reviewed with an active team.
Contacts: Balázs Gyimesi, President
Inga Chelyadina, Treasurer
Andreas Pacher, Editor-in-Chief
Philippe Perchoc, Founder
The present dossier was organised by Nouvelle Europe’s Editor-in-Chief, Andreas Pacher.
Cover: Detail from Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (Museo Diocesano in Cortona)
Contents Introduction: Digital Diplomacy in Europe by Andreas Pacher…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….7 Sub-state public diplomacy: The Catalan case by Balázs Gyimesi……………………………………………………………………………………………………..….....10 Where does Europe stand in the Chinese digital environment? by Manon Bellon………………………………………………………………………………………………………………17 L’engagement politique sur le web : remplacement ou élargissement de la société civile ? par Patricia Gautier…………………………………………………………………………….…………………………..24 Ukraine ban on Russian websites: a matter of national security or a sign of rising authoritarianism? by Inga Chelyadina………………………………………………………………………………………………………….30 La e-diplomatie estonienne à l’heure de la fin des territoires par Eric Crozon……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….37 Tweeting about Security and Defence: The Digital Influence of EU Member States during the 2017 NATO Summit by Pierre H. N. Martin……………………………………………………………………………………………………..41 The discursive creation of #Visegrád by Andreas Pacher…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..48 Social media in government communications in Ukraine: expert opinions by Yana Hryshko…………………………………….……………………………………………………………………….54
Introduction: Digital Diplomacy in Europe By Andreas Pacher If Pope Urban II. had tweeted „Deus vult!“ in 1095, how many re-tweets would he have received? ‘Following’ and ‘liking’ officials’ social media accounts means permanently carrying the government in one’s pockets. This intrusion into our lives can be compared to paintings of the Annunciation of Christ, often depicting the messenger, Archangel Gabriel, appearing in Mary’s homely room to transmit a message from above. Our secularized world replaces the angel with a governmental official, instead of Virgin Mary listens the average citizen, and in lieu of the white dove (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) flies the blue Twitter-bird with a message sent top-down. But whereas the encounter with Archangel Gabriel – the patron-saint of diplomacy – brought forth deep reflections within the recipient whose much-pondered response gradually formed into a sincere ‘Yes’, success in digital diplomacy is mostly measured in quantifiable ‘likes’, ‘tags’, ‘shares’ and ‘re-tweets’. Communication technologies serve politicians’ intentions in promoting their agenda and in achieving a rapid deployment of societal forces. They enable a quick spreading of norms which are then to be re-asserted by the masses. It may certainly be true that social media empower average individuals to participate in important decisions. But a less naïve look would also find that what is guised as open participation also contributes to facilitated monitoring and to a mass reproduction of power structures (Pamment 2015). For we know that the most influential social media accounts pertain to those who traditionally had held power – mainly governments and leading politicians. This is not surprising: They are the ones who are “most likely to send out firsthand and/or reliable information and have a professional reputation. The general public are interested in who they are and what they say” (Dubois & Gaffney 2014, 1270). But academic scrutiny found official accounts to mostly consist of a “continuous supply of press releases” (Kampf et. al 2015, 331) rather than engaging in true dialogues. They are like a cornucopia gushing out their preferred messages into an amorphous mass public which are then called on to ‘share’ and ‘like’ state narratives. These, after all, are the responses that define the success of public diplomats on the cyberspace. This background makes it so critical to examine how rulers utilize the capacities provided by official digital representation. Moreover, as the locus of Nouvelle Europe’s main interest – 7
Central and Eastern Europe – is known to be weakly positioned on social media (Dodd & Collins 2017), this poses an additional incentive to shed light on this up-to-date and yet underresearched topic. This Nouvelle Europe dossier thus seeks to build upon concepts and frameworks that have recently emerged in academic discussions, and to collect additional ideas with original in-depth research. Balázs Gyimesi explores the curious case of European sub-state entities – Catalonia, Scotland, Flanders – and their public diplomacy activities; Manon Bellon highlights how official European accounts act on Chinese social media; Patricia Gautier looks at how civil society in Central and Eastern Europe pursue online activism strategies, but finds that “[l]a mobilisation hors-ligne est encore nécessaire”. Inga Chelyadina reflects upon the discussions surrounding Ukraine’s blockage of the omnipresent Russian social media services. Eric Crozon traces how and why Estonia has created for itself a niche as the international pioneer in e-politics and digital governance. Pierre H. N. Martin analyzes the 2017 NATO Summit in terms of opinion-leadership among EU member states on Twitter, topping off surprising results with convincing interpretations. Andreas Pacher explores the strategies behind the discursive representation of the Visegrád Group, or #Visegrád, on Twitter. These analytical observations are concluded by interviews (conducted by Yana Hryshko) with three Ukrainian governmental social media practitioners. This practical perspective serves as a complementary to what otherwise would perhaps seem too scientific – and, as a close look reveals, too detached from how digital diplomacy is actually perceived from those who really ‘do’ it. If Gabriel is the patron saint of diplomats, is he also the patron saint of digital diplomats? This is a controversial question, for there is no official patron saint for the internet yet. A few candidates are regarded as probable contenders, such as St. Isidore of Seville (560-630) who had meticulously collected his era’s total knowledge in an encyclopedia, or St. Pedro Regalado (13901456) who had the ability to appear simultaneously at various places. However, as we are still awaiting an official decision, it seems that we at the receiving end of digital diplomacy have yet to stay unprotected from its dangers . . .
This dossier is based on the readings:
DODD, Melissa D. & COLLINS, Steve J., “Public relations message strategies and public diplomacy 2.0: An empirical analysis using Central-Eastern European and Western Embassy Twitter accounts”, Public Relations Review 43, pp. 417-425, 2017.
DUBOIS, Elizabeth & GAFFNEY, Devin, “The Multiple Facets of Influence: Identifying Political Influentials and Opinion Leaders on Twitter”, American Behavioral Scientist 58:10, pp. 1260-1277, 2014.
GOLAN, Guy J. & HIMELBOIM, Itai, “Can World System Theory predict news flow on twitter? The case of government-sponsored broadcasting”, Information, Communication & Society 15:8, pp. 1150-1170, 2016.
KAMPF, Ronit, MANOR, Ilan & SEGEV, Elad, “Digital Diplomacy 2.0? A Cross-national Comparison of Public Engagement in Facebook and Twitter”, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy 10, pp. 331-362, 2015.
PAMMENT, James, “Digital diplomacy as transmedia engagement: Aligning theories of participatory culture with international advocacy campaigns”, new media & society, pp. 1-17, 2015.
Twiplomacy Study 2016: http://www.twiplomacy.com/blog/twiplomacy-study-2016/.
VAN HAM, Peter, Social Power in International Politics, Routledge, 2010.
Sub-state public diplomacy: The Catalan case By Balázs Gyimesi Sub-state entities such as Scotland, Flanders
external relations, however, due to the different legal frameworks of the diplomatic activities of these regions, their channels and competences can vary greatly, making it difficult to compare them. The article examines the diplomatic activities of Catalonia, Image: Casa de les Punxes in Barcelona, photo credit: Balazs Gyimesi.
an autonomous community of Spain, focusing on its public diplomacy, its legal
digital diplomatic activities on Twitter. As the findings show, Catalonia exercises an active public diplomacy through numerous channels, although the legal framework remains turbulent due to a conflictual relationship with Madrid. Diplomacy is usually seen as an intergovernmental or multilateral affair of states, who entertain relations through embassies and high-level meetings, but also conduct public diplomacy in the hope to win the “hearts and minds” of foreign publics. What about the sub-state entities in Europe, such as Scotland, Catalonia or Flanders, do they entertain external relations? Indeed, sub-state diplomacy plays an important role, with the case of Catalonia being particularly intriguing given the announcement of the autonomous Catalan Government to hold a referendum on the 1st of October, 2017, on the sub-state entity’s independence. While Madrid is firmly opposed to the referendum, Catalonia is trying to shape the foreign public opinion on the issue, for which the channels of public diplomacy play an essential role. But how does the public diplomacy of a sub-state entity work? The article guides the reader through the legal framework of Catalonia’s public diplomacy, followed by its institutions and concluded by a concrete example of digital public diplomacy, the Twitter diplomacy, or Twiplomacy, of Catalan institutions, comparing their performance with that of other European sub-state entities. 10
Legal framework of Catalonia’s sub-state public diplomacy: conflictual relationship with Madrid In the case of sub-state public diplomacy, the content and shape of diplomatic activities depend on the specific legal frameworks, which differ from region to region, making the external actions of entities such as Flanders, Scotland or Catalonia challenging to compare. The powers of the legislative bodies of these sub-state entities depend on the powers conferred upon them by the constitution and laws adopted by the state they are part of. Catalonia is an autonomous community within Spain, with its institutions and functioning defined by the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006, which was altered by the Judgment No. 31/2010 of the Spanish Constitutional Court, ruling several articles of the Statute, such as the formula “Catalonia as a nation”, as unconstitutional (Tribunal Constitucional de España, 2010). The Catalan public diplomacy’s current legal basis is the Law of Foreign Action and Relations with the European Union, which was adopted by the Catalan Parliament in 2014, based on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled in its Judgement No. 228/2016 on 22 December 2016, accepting an appeal filed by the Spanish government, that the Catalan Law of Foreign Action was unconstitutional, as it invaded Spain’s exclusive executive powers regarding international relations. This led to a five-month suspension of the Law of Foreign Action. Catalonia’s public diplomacy was also deemed unconstitutional by the court, which employed a strict definition of public diplomacy, referring to it as a “a group of activities with external impact, (…) whose targets can be States and international organizations as subjects of international law” (Tribunal Constitucional de España, 2016). Firstly, we have to state that there is no single, established definition of public diplomacy. Nevertheless, the common essence of the different definitions is the targeting of foreign public opinion. The Catalan Law of Foreign Action defines public diplomacy as “any action by a public or private actor that has an effective and positive impact on public opinion abroad with the aim of enhancing the image, influence and prestige of Catalonia abroad” (Parlament de Catalunya, 2014), including cultural, economic and sports diplomacy. The Spanish Constitutional Court highlighted on a possible intergovernmental dimension of public diplomacy in its ruling, whereas in several definitions by academics and diplomatic services, the focus lies on the contact with the general public of foreign countries. One of these definitions was coined by the US Department of State: “Public diplomacy refers to government-sponsored programmes intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries” (Diplocat, 2017a). According to Paul Sharp, Professor and Head of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, public diplomacy 11
is “the process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the values of those being represented” (Sharp, 2005). These definitions see public diplomacy as a wider effort to win the “hearts and minds” of foreign publics, as a form of communication targeted at the general public opinion. The Catalan public diplomacy’s legal framework demonstrates the conflictual relationship between the Spanish government and the autonomous Catalan government. Catalonia, nevertheless, pursues an active public diplomacy agenda in a transversal manner, encompassing a range of fields, including academia, sports and business.
Catalonia’s public diplomacy The motor of Catalonia’s public diplomacy is the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, the Consell de Diplomàcia Pública de Catalunya, also called “Diplocat”, a public-private consortium housed in the Casa de les Punxes, a modernist building on Barcelona’s central Avinguda Diagonal. The imposing headquarters and the Council’s fast-rising budget, which grew by 58% between 2012 and 2017 , demonstrate the growing importance of public diplomacy for Catalonia. Diplocat was founded in 2012 with the purpose of “explain[ing] the Catalan situation abroad (…), publicising Catalonia’s values and assets to international public opinion and establishing links of trust with the citizens and institutions of other countries” (Diplocat, 2017b). Its activities involve, among others, organising conferences in Catalonia and abroad, participating in election observation missions, granting scholarships to students and financial aid for civil society. The public-private consortium adopts a transversal approach by regrouping public institutions such as the Government of Catalonia and the Catalan Provincial Councils; financial and business associations such as the General Council of the Official Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Catalonia; social, trade union and sporting organisations such as FC Barcelona; and universities, business schools and academic institutions such as the University of Barcelona and the Pompeu Fabra University. This allows Diplocat to leverage Catalonia’s influence in several fields, targeting foreign publics on several fronts. However, Diplocat is not the only Catalan institution conducting public diplomacy. Besides its contribution to Diplocat’s work, the Genralitat de Catalunya, which comprises the political bodies of Catalonia – the Government, the Parliament and the President of the Generalitat – is also directly involved in public diplomacy, as it operates several delegations, whose role is to “defend the interests of Catalonia and to promote the country abroad” 12
(Parlament de Catalunya, 2014). The Generalitat’s eight delegations are located in Brussels (delegation to the EU), Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Lisbon, London and New York. The delegation to the EU is equipped with an exhibition space and conference hall, the Espai Catalunya Europa, which is an important tool for Catalonia’s cultural diplomacy. Furthermore, the cultural diplomacy of Catalonia is strengthened by the Institut Ramon Llull, a cultural institution which was founded by the Generalitat in 2002 to promote the Catalan language and culture in the world. The Institut is co-funded with the Government of the Balearic Islands (whose own language is Catalan, too), which has led to conflicts in the past due to different views on the question of the secessionist movement, which is not part of the political mainstream of the Balearic Islands. The Institut now has four external offices, in Berlin, London, Paris and New York. Catalonia is also actively conducting economic diplomacy, co-ordinated by the Generalitat, which operates Catalonia Trade & Investment Offices in over thirty cities worldwide, providing international companies interested in investing in Catalonia with support to set up their businesses. Nevertheless, there are several other ways to reach target groups beyond the physical presence of delegations, one being social media, and in particular Twitter.
The role of Twitter in sub-state public diplomacy: Catalonia’s solid performance Twitter is an increasingly popular tool used for digital diplomacy, which is employed by several official bodies to promote their activities and shape the general public opinion of foreign countries. The official Catalan institutes involved in public diplomacy all have their own Twitter accounts in English with the exception of the Institut Ramon Llull, which has the specific purpose of promoting the Catalan language. However, the English accounts of the other institutions allow them to connect to a wider public, who might not speak Catalan but be interested in Catalonia’s political and cultural life. Besides its official Twitter presence, Diplocat also launched an additional Twitter account called @CatalanVoices, where each week a different Catalan or foreigner living in Catalonia takes over the account, sharing insights into their lives in Catalonia and their connection to the Catalan culture. This format of interactive public diplomacy via Twitter was pioneered by Sweden with the @Sweden Twitter account, and later also used by Scotland with its now defunct @Scotvoices account. The most successful among the English-language Catalan public diplomacy accounts is the one of the Catalan Government, which has 25,552 followers. Diplocat’s English account 13
(@ThisIsCatalonia) and the Institut Ramon Llull’s Catalan account (@IRLlull) have a similar number of followers, the former 13,046, the latter 12,046. The Catalan Government and Diplocat’s accounts were dominated by the referendum, as using the Twitter analytics site “foller.me”, the word “referendum” came up as one of the most used words by these two accounts.
Number of Twitter followers of Catalan public diplomacy accounts 30,000 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0 @ThIsCatalonia
The most followed Delegation of the Government of Catalonia abroad is the Delegation to the EU in Brussels, which has 6,479 followers, followed by the delegations in New York and London, with most other delegations having around 2,000 followers, except for the delegation in Lisbon, which has only 317 followers.
Number of Twitter followers of Delegations of the Government of Catalonia abroad 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0
Nevertheless, in order to assess the Catalan Twitter accounts’ performance, it is informative to compare them with the Twiplomacy of other sub-state entities. For this purpose, we will compare Catalonia’s Twiplomacy with the one of Flanders and Scotland. Flanders only has one public diplomacy-related Twitter account in English which is not the account of a specific delegation, the Twitter account of the Flanders Investment & Trade agency. Scotland, on the other hand, has several public diplomacy-related accounts, such as the accounts of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, and also Scottish Development International, an institution which supports inward investment to Scotland and has a role roughly equivalent to the Flanders Investment & Trade agency and the Catalonia Trade & Investment Offices. Furthermore, Scotland operates the official Twitter account @AboutScotland, which is used to promote Scotland as a destination for work, studies and leisure. The accounts of the Scottish Government and Parliament are not strictly public diplomacy accounts, as they are also used to inform domestic audiences, since English is also the language of Scotland, whereas Englishspeaking Catalan accounts of public institutions are mostly used to target foreign audiences. Among these accounts, the Scottish Government and Parliament have the highest number of followers, however, the Catalan Government’s English twitter account has one fourth of the followers of the Scottish Government. Diplocat’s number of followers exceeds the number of followers of @AboutScotland. However, Scottish Development International is more successful on Twitter than the Flemish and the Catalan Trade and Investment Offices, which both have a similar number of followers. This comparison demonstrates the solid Twitter performance of Catalan institutions in comparison with the Twiplomacy of other European sub-state entities.
Sub-state level twiplomacy in Catalonia, Flanders and Scotland 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0
Conclusion Despite the turbulent legal background, Catalonia pursues an active public diplomacy, involving several institutions such as the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Institut Ramon Llull and other public bodies. Catalonia’s digital public diplomacy performs solidly in comparison with other European sub-state entities, demonstrating that an active public diplomacy is possible on a sub-state level, encompassing several dimensions of the term. The developments concerning the announced referendum on Catalonia’s independence will be a test for Catalan public diplomacy and its ability to navigate and also shape the public opinion abroad. References: Diplocat (2017a), Catalonia background information : The Spanish Constitutional Court and the meaning of public diplomacy, http://www.diplocat.cat/files/docs/170419-E02ENSpanishConstitutionalCourtMeaningPublicDiplomacy.pdf Diplocat (2017b), Global connection,international dialogue, http://www.diplocat.cat/files/docs/Diplocat_triptic_EN.pdf Parlament de Catalunya (2014), Law 16/2014, of 4 December, on external action and relations with the European Union, http://exteriors.gencat.cat/web/.content/00_DEPARTAMENT /plans/Llei_Accio_Exterior_EN.pdf Sharp, Paul (2005), Revolutionary States, Outlaw Regimes and the Techniques of Public Diplomacy, in : Melissen, Jan (2005), The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, http://culturaldiplomacy.org/academy/pdf/research/books/ soft_power/The_New_Public_Diplomacy.pdf Tribunal Constitucional de España (2010), Constitutional Court Judgment No. 31/2010, https://www.tribunalconstitucional.es/ResolucionesTraducidas/312010,%20of%20June%2028.pdf Tribunal Constitucional de España (2016), SENTENCIA 228/2016, de 22 de diciembre, http://hj.tribunalconstitucional.es/es/Resolucion/Show/25212 16
Where does Europe stand in the Chinese digital environment? By Manon Bellon
Image: Screen capture of the Weibo page of the EU delegation in China Is the use of social media really a way for public institutions to reach a foreign population, engage in a two-way discussion and achieve one’s foreign policy goal? Or is it a lure of modernity that risks backfiring if not used well? With the largest Internet users’ community and the apparition of netizens, able to influence to some degree state policies, China is an interesting laboratory for EU digital diplomacy. The strategy of EU digital diplomacy is to create a cost-saving synergy between a central message revolving around Federica Mogherini’s personal management of her Twitter account, while giving way for local adaptation (Mann, 2015). EU digital diplomacy aims at emphasizing team work around an anchor, thereby also conveying an image of unity in diversity. Similarly, the use of social media, when done in an optimal way – that is with accounts that are not dormant and links that are working –, also spread an innovative image. The key messages are the following ones: accessibility, transparence, promotion of European values, and information about European politics. Indeed, the two-way conversation Mann advocates for would surely be a strong asset in foreign policy. Yet, it has been repeatedly pointed out that two-way conversation 17
is lacking in digital communication campaigns (Ronit Kampf, Ilan Manor and Elad Segev, 2015). Finally, live-reporting such as the #IranTalks has been praised as a success for offering a sense of proximity to the audience while providing for trustworthy information (Pamment, 2015). Michael Mann recalls that the “inherent contradiction in digital diplomacy” lies between the secrecy and long-term view required by diplomacy and the transparence and immediacy expected in social media. As diplomacy with China covers a number of highly sensitive topics (human rights, trade), we expect to see this contradiction particularly prevalent in EU’s Chinese digital diplomacy.
*** With the largest number of internet users, China also has the one of the most isolated Internet networks. Though the use of Virtual Private Networks increases among the Chinese population, most Chinese still resort to the Chinese equivalent of Facebook and Twitter, namely We Chat and Weibo. Starting less than ten years ago, both networks reach nowadays skyrocketing rates in terms of frequentation. According to a 2017 report (Li, 2017), almost 60% of We Chat users use the application daily. Although only 9.8% of Weibo users log in daily, more than 30% is still connecting at least once per month. The report concludes that Chinese social networks have a young user population although older generations are catching up, either an effect from natural aging of users or a genuine growing affection for social media from the older generations. The average age of We Chat and Weibo users is 33.1years, representing therefore a really specific segment of the Chinese population, one who didn’t know Mao’s communism, but who is old enough to remember China’s outstanding economic development. The report also tries to identify “what makes a meaningful social buzz”. When Weibo was born, criticism of social evils were the most popular posts. Now it has evolved towards more entertainment and a commercialized usage of Weibo. Thus, a remarkable action is for instance the British Council’s live broadcasting between UK and Chinese students, which totalized nearly 6 million of viewers. Analyzing this event, they found that people cared about visual quality and appearance, and less about content.
The overall recommendations of this report are similar to any communication agency’s recommendations in the world: target the right people at the right moment with the right message on the right platform and don’t always strive for quantity. Adding to that, it seems that the first social media Chinese people go to is We Chat since it is Facebook and Twitter together. Yet, Weibo is also important: because it is a website, a Baidu research (the Chinese Google) can lead you to it. It is however important to keep in mind that social media are very volatile, especially regarding “influencers” (Elizabeth Dubois; Devin Gaffney, 2014): only 55% percent of the top 500 accounts stayed in the top lists for 2 years and 12 of the top accounts were deleted or banned in 2017 “due to various reasons” (Chen, s.d.). Lastly, Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn’t have a personal account. An official account of the Chinese government does exist and some “funny” contents are occasionally posted although most of them remain official declarations.
*** The EU delegation in Beijing has a Weibo page called “EU in China”. Since it is entirely in Chinese, with very few content translated into English, we assume that most of its 185 followers and 161,458 fans are Chinese. With 8,074 followers on their We Chat account, the EU delegation is faring pretty well according to a Chinese communication expert. Working in Europe, European culture, studying in Europe and the European film festival in China are the topics that first catch the reader’s eyes, at the top of the page. It is thus immediately apparent that the strategy of this page is informative and focused on cultural diplomacy, with very light political content, just like the EU delegation in Japan for instance. Nevertheless, when one scrolls down the stream of posts – approximately one per week – news that promote EU policies such as the environment or the refugees appear. Once in a while, “funnier” contents are published, like the post at the occasion of the 8001th fan which thanked the fans and wish them good luck for their gaokao, the equivalent of the baccalaureate in China and a determinant moment in every Chinese student’s life. Humor is definitely a register proper to social media which usually reach a younger audience. Sixty-seven articles are also available on the website, mostly about events where the EU is involved and officials’ declarations. There might be here some editorial choices about the topics. Indeed, social media also bear the advantage of enabling institutions to set some agenda of 19
debate. As an example, on May 17th, 2017, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the EU delegation posted the Declaration by the HR Federica Mogherini, in which she was strongly hinting at governments’ inaction towards gay rights. China is without doubts one of them (Yan, 2017). The EU delegation doesn’t delete negative comments. Either it wants to fit to the image of an institution open to debate or it just lacks sufficient human resources. However, the best would be to follow up on the comments since social media are about discussion, not mere publication. Similarly, posting mostly content in English like the European Chamber of Commerce does on Weibo, doesn’t convey the image of an institution willing to engage in dialogue with the Chinese population. Donald Tusk, the EU Film Festival and Erasmus Mundus also have a Weibo page, showing the informative and promotional purpose in the use of social media by the EU. No strong assertion of EU values appears on these pages though. Even the choice of the declarations published is a shy one as the language used in these declarations has already been thoroughly studied to be accepted by foreign governments.
*** “If you don’t exist on the social media sphere today, you don’t exist at all” once said a communicator. Continuing to engage China in the digital world and increasing its visibility there seems to be the only path for the EU. Yet, it is important to remember that each digital environment is complex and that “good communication doesn’t lie in the number of posts, rather the contrary”. Social media are about staging one’s life, about visibility. Therefore, the biggest opportunity identified for the EU’s use of social media is to stage itself, increasing thereby its soft power. Meanwhile and even more in the context of a state-controlled society like China, it seems harder for the EU to conduct an overt advocacy digital diplomacy, regarding human rights for instance (Parliament, 2016). As often the case in digital diplomacy and diplomacy as a whole, nothing shows that the EU listens to the Chinese public (Melissa D. Dodd; Steve J. Collins, 2017). Yet, the use of big data analysis permits targeted messages, much more efficient that blind posting. Listening would thus improve “people-to-people connectivity” (Parliament, 2016).
In this view, Michael Mann is encouraging all European actors to contribute to the spread of key messages. Adding to him, I argue that EU could also get inspired by this diversity of actors, and profit from their various positioning in the digital sphere. A quick search on We Chat shows that at least 8 member states’ embassies have an account, and 4 more have only a tourism agency. Great Britain provides us with an example of a successful digital communication strategy in China with the “GREAT” campaign. On the occasion of a visit of Prince William to Shanghai the 2nd and 3rd of March 2015, a festival was launched at the Long Museum, promoting creativity. The person of the Prince, the location, and the digital campaign that accompanied it all contributed to the success of what is remembered as a modern, dynamic and attractive display of the UK. The communication was described as using simple messages with many visuals to targeted audiences who passed the messages on. The key of this success might be the fact that the UK embassy delegated its digital communication to a professional communication agency who carried out a prior evaluation using big data analysis to know criteria such as how much people would react, and what their reaction would be. Having a single agency also allowed for a degree of coordination, leading to an efficient “staging”. Lastly, from an academic point of view, a more rigorous analysis of EU digital diplomacy in China on specific topics would be of interest to try to assess the potential of digital diplomacy. Indeed, because Chinese people engage in a rather isolated digital sphere, there is little chance that they are influenced by EU institutions’ posts on other Twitter and Facebook accounts. Similarly, the contents posted on We Chat and Weibo are expected to be closely targeted for an exclusively Chinese audience. References: Anon.,
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L’engagement politique sur le web : remplacement ou élargissement de la société civile ? Par Patricia Gautier Les
révolutionner nos démocraties. Au-delà de la possibilité de garder le contact avec ses amis, ils offrent aux citoyens un espace de délibération très peu contrôlé par les pouvoirs existants. Le printemps arabe de 2010 a montré leur utilité dans l’organisation
politiques. Quel rôle peuvent-ils avoir Grève Générale des Femmes à Opole dans le sud de la Pologne, 3/10/2016. Photo par Iga Lubczańska [igalubczanska / Flickr].
dans les pays d’Europe centrale et orientale, certaines
tournant illibéral ? La société civile peut-elle instrumentaliser cet outil pour influencer véritablement le processus politique ?
Médias et démocratie : la centralité des médias dans l’exercice du pouvoir politique L’apparition des réseaux sociaux s’inscrit dans le développement des médias et de leur place toujours plus croissante dans la vie politique des démocraties occidentales, dont Internet est le maillon le plus récent. Plusieurs travaux scientifiques ont montré la centralité des médias dans ce qu’Habermas nomme la sphère publique, c’est-à-dire un espace où « tous les citoyens ont un accès égal à une communication qui est à la fois indépendante de contraintes gouvernementales, et qui à travers ses capacités délibératives et de création de consensus, contraint l’agenda et les décisions du gouvernement » (Bennett, Entman, 2001, 3). Grâce aux médias, les citoyens ont accès à un espace de délibération et de contrôle de gouvernement, où ils peuvent être informés et peuvent participer à l’exercice démocratique. Ces 24
espaces incluent progressivement l’ensemble de la société avec l’apparition des médias de masse au tournant du XXème siècle. Les tirages des journaux explosent avec l’alphabétisation massive, puis viennent la radio, le cinéma et la télévision. Les citoyens se tiennent au courant des dernières nouvelles politiques grâce aux médias. Le processus politique s’adapte également aux médias, qui deviennent une nouvelle arène politique. Il devient nécessaire de maîtriser de nouvelles compétences alors que savoir communiquer auprès du grand public est indispensable pour conquérir et conserver le pouvoir. Dans « Rebuilding Leviathan », la chercheuse Anna Grzymala-Busse montre l’importance des médias dans les nouvelles démocraties d’Europe centrale (Grzymala-Busse, 2007 : 32). Etudiant la transformation de l’Etat dans la transition démocratique, elle montre que les nouvelles organisations politiques sont caractérisées par un surdéveloppement des élites et une faible présence sur le terrain. Il leur est impossible d’user de stratégies de persuasion comme le clientélisme. Au contraire, les médias leur assurent d’atteindre la plupart des foyers. La centralité des médias dans l’exercice du pouvoir s’illustre notamment par les tentatives des gouvernements illibéraux de les contrôler. En Hongrie, le pouvoir de Viktor Orban a adopté une série de lois visant à affaiblir les médias par une censure sous couvert « d’objectivité politique » (Article du Figaro). Ce contrôle va jusqu’à la fermeture brutale et illégale d’un des grands quotidiens nationaux, Nepszabadsag, en octobre 2016. Une logique similaire a conduit à de profondes réformes de la télévision d’Etat polonaise, Telewizja Polska, à la suite de l’arrivée au pouvoir des conservateurs de Droit et Justice en octobre 2015 (Article du Monde). Internet et les réseaux sociaux, moins facilement contrôlables du fait de l’organisation décentralisée du web, peuvent représenter une alternative dans l’expression d’oppositions politiques.
Encadré : Les pratiques politiques en Europe centrale et orientale La participation au processus politique peut s’exercer sous plusieurs formes : le vote, l’adhésion à un parti politique, l’engagement dans une association, manifester, signer une pétition… Nous reproduisons ici les données de l’European Social Survey de 2014 à propos des pays postcommunistes présents : la République Tchèque, l’Estonie, la Hongrie, la Lituanie et la Pologne. La France et l’Allemagne sont mobilisées pour donner des éléments de comparaison.
Source : European Social Survey, Round 7 â€“ 2014. http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/
Internet et les réseaux sociaux : une façon de (re)vitaliser les sociétés civiles post-communistes ? Comme le note Anna Grzymala-Busse, les sociétés civiles des pays post-communistes sont assez faibles, malgré un attachement réel et profond à la démocratie. L’arrivée d’Internet ces dernières décennies, et notamment des réseaux sociaux, peut aider à la vitalité de ces sociétés civiles. Le principal attrait des réseaux sociaux est de permettre à chacun de garder contact avec ses connaissances tout en rencontrant de nouvelles personnes. C’est aussi l’opportunité de contourner les pressions du pouvoir sur les médias traditionnels en accédant à de nouvelles sources d’information. Les réseaux sociaux créent de nouveaux espaces de délibération politiques, où les citoyens peuvent échanger sans trop d’efforts. Ces espaces peuvent permettre la revitalisation des sociétés civiles par la diffusion des normes démocratiques au-delà des espaces traditionnels de socialisation politique que pouvaient être les associations et les mouvements politiques. Les réseaux sociaux peuvent également offrir un apprentissage du politique aux générations les plus jeunes, qui constituent une fraction importante des personnes présentes en ligne. Il existe plusieurs limites aux effets des réseaux sociaux sur la vitalisation de la société civile. Notons d’abord l’effet de bulle qui enferme l’utilisateur dans un espace d’interaction avec des personnes aux idées similaires. Les réseaux sociaux permettent de trouver des personnes avec les mêmes intérêts, et s’alimentent via des algorithmes chargés de trouver du contenu toujours plus similaire. Cela permet de catalyser les gens et de leur permettre de se soutenir dans leurs luttes. Cela mène toutefois à une fragmentation importante des espaces d’échange et à toujours plus d’imperméabilité, puisqu’il devient plus difficile d’obtenir des vues radicalement divergentes. On perd ainsi l’échange de vue et l’inclusion de leur diversité. Une seconde limite est la transformation de l’activité civique et politique des réseaux sociaux en influence véritable sur le processus politique. Placek mentionne ce problème en le rapprochant de la notion de slacktivisme. Les citoyens peuvent être très actifs en ligne, mais ne pas réussir à capitaliser sur cet engagement pour obtenir de réelles avancées à cause des coûts de participation. L’engagement politique nécessite des ressources comme du temps ou des moyens financiers. Participer à une manifestation nécessite ainsi un engagement plus important en termes de coûts qu’une discussion sur twitter. Les données de l’European Social Survey tendent à montrer que les engagements politiques plus coûteux en ressources, comme une participation à une association, sont encore largement sous-investis par les citoyens des pays post-communistes. 27
Ainsi, si les réseaux sociaux peuvent permettre de revitaliser la société civile en offrant des espaces de socialisation politique et de délibération, il est important de ne pas en surestimer les effets sur le processus politique. A l’automne 2016, la Pologne est secouée par une opposition à la réforme de l’avortement proposée par le gouvernement conservateur. L’opposition se mobilise avec une grève générale des femmes à travers le pays les 3 et le 24 octobre et des marches où les participants sont habillés tout en noir (« Czarny Protest »). Cette mobilisation, inédite par son ampleur selon plusieurs observateurs (Mikulak), a poussé au rejet du texte par le Parlement polonais. Les réseaux sociaux ont constitué un point de rassemblement et d’organisation important, avec par exemple le développement d’un espace de discussion sur Facebook et un évènement listant toutes les manifestations dans le pays. Ils semblent donc être un outil parmi d’autres dans la palette de l’action politique et ne remplacent pas d’autres modes d’action, actions indispensables pour avoir un impact sur la décision politique. La mobilisation hors-ligne est encore nécessaire. Références : Bennett, W. Lance & Entman, Robert M. (ed.) (2000). Mediated politics: Communication in the future of democracy. Cambridge University Press Grzymala-Busse, Anna (2007). Rebuilding Leviathan: Party competition and state exploitation in post-communist democracies. Cambridge University Press. Placek, Matthew Alan (2017) : #Democracy : social media use and democratic legitimacy in Central and Eastern European, in Democratization, 24:4, 632 - 650 -Florence La Bruyère ; Hongrie: victoire posthume du quotidien «Népszabadság», 11 janvier 2017, Libération
quotidien-nepszabadsag_1540747 Jerry Daykin: Could social media be tearing us apart? June 28th 2016, The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2016/jun/28/social-media-networks-filterbubbles
Magdalena Mikulak: The victory of abortion rights protesters in Poland is likely to be short lived, October 18th 2016, LSE Europpblog http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2016/10/18/abortionpoland-short-lived-victory/ Maurin Picard : En Hongrie, Orban resserre le contrôle des médias 21 décembre 2010, Le Figaro http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2010/12/21/01003-20101221ARTFIG00556-en-hongrieorban-resserre-le-controle-des-medias.php Le Monde : En Pologne, l’exécutif aura plus de contrôle sur les médias publics, le 31 décembre 2015 http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2015/12/31/la-pologne-adopte-une-loi-donnant-al-executif-plus-de-controle-sur-les-medias-publics_4839962_3214.html -Données de l’European Social Survey Round 7 – 2014
disponibles à cette adresse
http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/ Grève générale des femmes du 24 octobre 2016 et toutes les manifestations à travers la Pologne et le monde https://www.facebook.com/events/183872815352754/
Ukraine ban on Russian websites: a matter of national security or a sign of rising authoritarianism? By Inga Chelyadina A
President of Ukraine, from 15th of May this
sanctions adopted over the annexation of
separatists in eastern Ukraine. The new restrictions targeted the email service Mail.ru,
Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, and the search engine company Yandex. All four of them were among the top 10 of Photo credit: Collage Banki.ru.
according to the web traffic data company Alexa in May 2017. The Internet providers were obliged to block access to the sites for a period of three years. Poroshenko’s decision has been met with opposition by human rights groups who consider the move to restrict access to information more in line with authoritarianism than democracy. “When will Ukraine learn that emulating Russia's repression is no way to distinguish itself from Russia,” tweeted Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, comparing the ban to censorship by the government of Russia.
Digital diplomacy and national Internet bans Today, almost 3 billion people around the world have access to the Internet. This global network influences practically every side of the daily life, including international relations. The Internet has evolved through its organic, even anarchic nature to enable hitherto unprecedented opportunities. As a result, it also created new challenges for policymakers — both real and 30
potential. Many national governments now struggle to deal with security threats, cyber attacks, propaganda, and other activities that have been facilitated by online activities. As the Internet is today the fastest and most popular way of connecting with the public, national governments (some faster than others) started using cyberspace as another way of pursuing their national objectives. Given this global audience, it comes as no surprise that governments and leaders of 87% of the 193 United Nations member countries now have a presence on the social network. (Twiplomacy study). Over the past decade, Facebook and Twitter have become the channels for community engagement with world leaders. As the notion of “digital diplomacy” has developed not so long ago, researchers have interpreted it in different but similar ways The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) elaborates its definition of digital diplomacy on its website: “Digital diplomacy is solving foreign policy problems using the internet”. Thus, all official actions made by a government online are actions of digital diplomacy (such as official declarations or putting a ban on certain websites). Just as limiting access to information (e.g. restricting access to Western books, TV, radio and music in the Soviet Union), banning access to online resources is considered a sign of a government’s political views. But reality is not as easy as it seems. According to the Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom of the Net report, China together with Cuba and Iran remain among the most restrictive countries in terms of Internet freedom and the use of social media platforms. North Korea controls all the Internet use in the country, whose population is only allowed to use internal sources of information. Russia has been rated as “not free” by the Freedom of the Net report in 2015. One of the latest cases that created a lot of noise was the restriction of LinkedIn due to the storing of user data of Russian citizens outside the country, which violated the new data retention law. The ban was officially issued by Roskomnadzor on 17 November 2016. These are a few examples of extreme bans, however, even in liberal countries, where freedom of speech is respected at a high level, bans against propaganda are not unusual. In March 2016, Latvia has shut down the local website of Russia’s foreign news channel Sputnik, calling the state media outlet a “propaganda tool” and questioning the credibility of its reporting on the Ukraine conflict. During the official meeting between the President of France Emmanuel Macron and 31
President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Macron publicly accused Russian media of spreading “falsehood”: “I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be journalists,” Macron at the Palace of Versailles, adding that “Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence and propaganda that spread falsehoods about me and my campaign.” If some governments use their online platforms as a mean of propaganda and aggression towards another country, if national secret services control websites that are used by citizens of other countries, might it be ethical to limit access to those sources? When does the matter of national security become more important than the free access to information?
Ukraine bans since the start of war Since the beginning of tensions between Ukraine and Russia in 2014, many sanctions have already been put in place. (The two neighbors and former Soviet republics have been embroiled in a brutal, three-year war that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced about 1.7 million eastern Ukrainians). The Ukraine National Council has banned more than 70 Russian TV channels (even Rain, the Russian opposition channel with quite pro-Ukrainian views, which, however, once showed Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation); more than 500 movies and TV series were also banned from being broadcasted in Ukraine; more than 70 books are under official restriction. Furthermore, according to the national news portal Strana.ua, since 1 January 2017 Russia can no longer export any books to Ukraine. Thus, the Russian speaking population is seeking illegal ways to buy literature in their mother tongue. Would these measures be considered as going too far? Or do war times require such radical measures? To some it might remind of Soviet time politics, when forbidden books were given to each other under a mood of pervasive fear… However, the issue is much more complex, and some think that these measures are vital for Ukrainians in Russia’s hybrid war. On the 15th of May 2017, the sanctions were extended to forbid the access of some of the most popular Russian websites: Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Mail.ru and Yandex. According to the web traffic data company Alexa, all four are in the top 10 most popular sites in Ukraine. Approximately 25 million Ukrainians – in a country of 43 million people – used these Russian sites to connect with friends, join groups and use the online messaging systems. About 18 32
million Ukrainians used to visit Vkontakte daily, while Yandex processed 20-25 million search requests per day. According to President Poroshenko, these restrictions are necessary to further protect Ukraine from Moscow’s hybrid war, including propaganda, transmedia disinformation campaigns and military attacks. Supporters of the ban also said it would protect Ukrainians from the Russian security services’ ability to monitor and gather metadata from the sites’ users. Ukrainian government officials said the sites are closely monitored by Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service). “Russian social media sites have played a big role in both mobilizing separatist, pro-Russia sentiment in the Ukraine’s eastern regions and in disseminating anti-Ukrainian hate speech”, said Eugen Fedchenko, the director of the journalism school at the National University of KyivMohyla Academy in Kiev. He added that creating such groups that call for killing Ukrainians on Facebook would be impossible due to stricter guidelines for stopping hate speech. Russian sites do not have such rules. Fedchenko is also founder of a media fact-checking organization called StopFake, working to dispel fake news stories and disinformation campaigns. Several other Ukrainian politicians also expressed themselves in favor of the ban amid the simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists, which has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014. They argued that the Russian social media posed a security risk since Russian intelligence has access to data and could gather information about Ukrainian users, including state employees and soldiers.
Public criticisms However, many are very much against the ban, arguing its authoritarian nature, restricting the freedom to information. Sergei Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist who was elected to Ukraine’s parliament in 2014, posted on his Facebook page that the new ban had “much more in common with authoritarian regimes than with the struggle against Russian propaganda.” Mykhailo Chaplyga, the representative of the Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights, told the news agency UNIAN that “blocking access to sites without a court decision is not allowed under Ukrainian law”. Web industry representatives said users would be able to get around the ban quite easily. VPN (Virtual private network) clients have already become popular in Russia and Ukraine as a means of access to sites blacklisted by the authorities. 33
What is the reaction of the population? Many Internet users almost immediately ridiculed the ban. Of more than 11,000 respondents to an online poll on the UNIAN site just after the ban was introduced, 66% said they were “categorically against” the ban of VK, Yandex and other Russian sites. Another 11% said it would be easier to “ban the whole internet, like in North Korea”. However, today even though many people use VPN to access the banned websites, their popularity has largely diminished. The 4 sites are no longer on the top of the 10 most popular. More and more people start using Facebook for communications. According to Internet statistics company LiveInternet estimates from May 30, after two weeks of the ban, Yandex and Mail.ru have lost 70 percent of their Ukrainian users. The biggest Ukrainian mobile operators, which were in charge of blocking the websites, estimate that traffic has now switched from VKontakte and Odnoklassniki to other social networks. It said Facebook visits had increased by 60 percent, Twitter was up 40 percent, and Instagram 33 percent. There has also been an increase in the use of services similar to the banned Russian ones. For example, use of video website YouTube was up by 44 percent, online movie service Megogo by 128 percent, and online music service Deezer by 383 percent.
Freedom of Speech, Democracy and War The ban on the most popular Russian websites among Ukrainians has caused a lot of critics, but also appreciation. Some compare it to authoritarian China and some say it is the only way to protect the nation from Russian propaganda. However, the answer may not be as clear. According to Dhruva Jaishankar, “Discourse on Internet freedom frequently presents a false choice between freedom and security, or unnecessarily demonizes governments, when in fact the reality is rather more complex”. “As digital diplomacy becomes much more present in the everyday lives, there are some realities which must be taken into account. It is important to understand that the online world is an outgrowth of the offline world” (Jaishankar, 2014). Policy makers need to understand that online policies cannot be considered in a vacuum or removed from other aspects of public policy, such as freedoms or security. There cannot be a one-size approach to this issue. Rather, there should exist a certain level of tolerance in the Internet space. As we can see, current Internet legislation in many countries is deeply flawed. Often, national laws related to Internet freedom frequently infringe upon rights pertaining to freedom of expression (as in China), and are often vague (as in Ukraine), resulting in arbitrary implementation and the lack of public trust in state adequacy. 34
At this time of fast digital progress, it is vital to educate policy makers, but also the public about Internet use. Governments should support better research on the relationships between online communications and public opinion, political and social freedoms, and keep looking for ways of engaging citizens more in the decision-making processes. Limiting access to certain websites is not enough as there are easy ways to trick the system. The famous VPN so often used in China for accessing Western websites became more and more popular in Ukraine. However, the amount of Ukrainian users has diminished significantly. Has the aim been achieved? The public opinion polls indicate the results. A real danger of such policies is that as the issue increases in importance as a matter of national and international policy, concern will not dissipate but simply become relegated to a small echo chamber of like-minded advocates. If governments only accept like-minded sources of information, the population will have no exposure to alternative views. Is it the world we would like to live in? The Internet is no longer a government-free zone. Governments try to control it and its secret services have the ability to use it in different ways. New policies should be made in order not to make discriminatory laws, but to better regulate the online presence of all different actors. References:
Dhruva Jaishankar. Rebooting Digital Diplomacy. Brussels Forum 2014
Cohen, R. Putting diplomatic studies on the map. Diplomatic studies program newsletter. Leicester: Centre for the Study of Diplomacy (1998)
Corneliu Biola, Marcus Holmes. Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. Routledge, Political Science 2015
Nicholas Westcott. Digital Diplomacy: The Impact of the Internet on International Relations, Oxford Internet Institute, Research Report 16, July 2008
Latvia shuts down Russian ‘propaganda’ website Sputnik, Euractiv
Foreign policy in an era of digital diplomacy, Olubukola S. Adesina, Cogent Social Sciences (2017), 3: 1297175.
“Ukraine blocks popular Russian-owned social media sites, saying it's a matter of national security”, LA Times
“Ukraine does without internet services from Russia”, Kyiv Post
La e-diplomatie estonienne à l’heure de la fin des territoires Par Eric Crozon
Il est une particularité des euros estoniens : ce sont les seuls à figurer le contour géographique du pays. Cette présence du territoire sur les pièces est souvent un symbole d’un rapport spécifique aux frontières. A l’heure de la digitalisation de la diplomatie, quelle place pour le lien entre souveraineté et internet ?
Le rapport spécifique au territoire L’Estonie apparaît sur ses euros en circulation dans l’Union européenne plus grande qu’elle n’est sur une carte actuelle de l’Europe. Bizarrerie géographique conçue par la banque nationale ? En réalité, il s’agit plutôt de la transposition des blessures de l’histoire dans la géographie imaginaire et légale de l’Estonie : une partie du territoire estonien a été accaparé par la république russe au sein de l’URSS après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. La république d’Estonie actuelle, qui succède légalement à celle de l’Entre-deux-guerres, n’a pas ratifié le traité de frontière signé avec la Russie et donc n’a toujours pas les frontières légales de son territoire vécu. Ce qui explique ces pièces au profil dérogatoire.
Depuis l’indépendance, l’Estonie a largement misé sur le développement numérique. Elle a fait d’une digitalisation tardive en raison du retard soviétique, une chance pour s’octroyer une révolution d’avance. Ainsi, l’administration a été largement numérisée, profitant du statut de l’économie estonienne comme base arrière de géants finlandais et suédois du secteur. Vote électronique, numérisation des services, carte d’identité avec puce permettant d’opérer toutes les démarches administratives, l’Estonie est vite apparue comme une championne dans ce domaine, installant l’image d’une E-Estonie. 98% des Estoniens ont une carte d’identité numérique, 88% utilisent internet régulièrement (contre 85% en France), le pays est classé numéro 1 dans le classement de Freedom House sur la liberté du net dans le monde. Pourtant, la question se pose du lien entre rapport traumatique au territoire et digitalisation.
De Second Life au Président twitter Le pays a rapidement développé de nombreuses initiatives dans le domaine de la diplomatie numérique. Il faut dire que les cyber attaques de l’année 2007, lors desquelles toutes les institutions du pays ont été victimes d’actes de piratage en réaction à des émeutes contestant le déplacement d’une statue du libérateur soviétique du centre ville, n’ont pas entamé la détermination estonienne dans le domaine numérique. A la fragilité supposée des institutions connectées, les Estoniens ont répondu par la nécessité de plus de sécurité et non par le retour au bon vieux papier administratif. Les initiatives se sont succédées avec plus ou moins de succès : en 2007, l’Estonie fut le premier pays du monde à ouvrir une ambassade sur le site Second Life. Ce dernier offrait alors une sorte de monde parallèle en pleine expansion et Tallinn pensa qu’il fallait aussi y être représenté. L’expérience ne dura pas très longtemps puisque le site périclita après deux ans, mais le mouvement fut suivi par la Suède. L’E-Estonie connu une autre phase de développement diplomatique avec l’élection de Toomas Ilves comme président de 2006 à 2016. Traditionnellement et selon la constitution, le Président estonien a peu de pouvoir, mais quand le poste est tenu par une personnalité de grande envergure internationale comme ce fut le cas avec Lennart Meri ou Toomas Ilves, il peut influer grandement l’avenir du pays. Le Président Ilves choisit de s’investir sur ce sujet fondamental du numérique, développant un « style numérique » bien à lui, notamment sur Twitter où il est suivi par presque 90 000 personnes et où il a twitté presque 27 000 fois. Un de ces chevaux de bataille était celui d’une cinquième liberté de circulation européenne (avec les personnes, les biens, les services et les capitaux) : les données. 38
L’Estonie a donc fait de cette question de la numérisation et de sa sécurité une priorité, mais aussi un « marqueur national », partie intégrante de l’image du pays à l’international. D’ailleurs, la présidence estonienne du Conseil de l’Union européenne pour le second semestre 2017 marque bien cette ambition.
Protéger les données et le territoire Le lien entre territorialité et données est donc fondamental pour les Estoniens. Le pays est plus grand que la Belgique mais compte environ un million d’habitants. Par ailleurs, son histoire traumatique de relations avec la Russie l’incite à la méfiance. Il apparaît donc que le développement numérique se doit de renforcer la souveraineté plutôt que de la diminuer. Dans ce domaine, deux initiatives récentes et de grande ampleur ont été prises par l’Estonie : la erésidence et l’ambassade des données. La e-residence est une opportunité d’ouvrir une entreprise en Estonie (et donc dans l’UE) depuis l’extérieur et de pouvoir faire toutes les démarches relatives à cette entreprise depuis l’internet. Elle permet aussi de bénéficier d’une fiscalité avantageuse à 0% sur les bénéfices réinvestis en Estonie. Déjà plus de 19 000 personnes dans le monde sont e-résidents en Estonie. Les Finlandais, les Russes et les Ukrainiens sont les premiers en nombres, ce qui montre bien l’intérêt pour les citoyens hors UE de mettre un pays sur le marché européen. La plupart des entreprises opèrent dans le domaine de la consultance ou des services informatiques, qui ne nécessitent pas de présence physique. On constate à travers cette initiative que la logique n’est plus de faire exister l’Estonie dans le monde virtuel comme avec Second Life mais de donner une base physique au monde virtuel, en Estonie. Une seconde initiative rappelle le lien direct entre souveraineté et données : en effet, ces dernières nécessitent des serveurs sécurisés physiquement. Et le problème de la localisation physique des données est aujourd’hui de plus en plus crucial. On se souvient de l’information livrée par Politico Europe, à nuancer, selon laquelle le gouvernement estonien avait toujours un ministre à l’étranger pour assurer la continuité de l’Etat en cas d’invasion. La même logique a été suivie pour l’ouverture de la première ambassade des données au monde : les gouvernements estoniens et luxembourgeois viennent de signer une convention pour l’ouverture d’un serveur sécurisé estonien contenant des données étatiques sensibles au Luxembourg. Un des exemples 39
pris par les responsables du projet est celui de la liste des citoyens estoniens : rétablir cette liste après des dizaines d’années d’occupation soviétique avait été un défi difficile à relever. On imagine que choisir un pays de l’OTAN situé entre deux grandes puissances comme la France et l’Allemagne n’est pas le fruit du hasard. Ces expériences estoniennes montrent donc que la e-diplomatie n’est certainement pas une négation du territoire, mais un ré-agencement des relations entre données et territoires dont l’Estonie est un précurseur dans le but de renforcer sa souveraineté. Références :
Matthew Reynolds, 'Land is so yesterday': e-residents and 'digital embassies' could replace country borders, WIRED, Octobre 2016
E-Estonia, Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg
Estonia Second Life Embassy, 2008
Freedom House Internet Freedom Index 2016.
Tweeting about Security and Defence: The Digital Influence of EU Member States during the 2017 NATO Summit By Pierre H. N. Martin
Photo: Soldiers carrying the EU flag for the first plenary session of the European Parliament's 2014-2019 term. June 30, 2014 [European Parliament / Flickr].
EU member states all use Twitter for public diplomacy purposes, but they have disparate abilities to influence and rally support. When tweeting about security and defence, the most influential are mostly Western European countries and overwhelmingly in favour of more integration, whereas CEE countries are underâ€“represented and the dissenters virtually inaudible. The 2017 NATO Summit serves as an illustration.
Social networks are powerful vectors of public diplomacy, and digital diplomacy has become paramount for political actors to effectively spread messages amongst the general public. In this regard, Twitter diplomacy refers to the specific use of Twitter by heads of state and government, governmental organisations and individual diplomats to influence the attitude of a population towards a specific political agenda (Dubois and Gaffney, 2014). It is now common practice for EU member states to employ social networks, primarily Twitter, and intergovernmental summits have become platforms for digital diplomats to submit their agendas to the netizens’ scrutiny and to compete for the support of these potential ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. The EU Twitter diplomacy leaders are member states whose position within the network is more visible than that of the others, granting them a greater ability to influence the citizens forming the network. As the Union stands amidst a ring of instability and contends with a heightened terrorist threat at home, European security and defence has risen at the top of the EU agenda, and the consensus view amongst European decision–makers seems to be that the future of European security and defence will hinge in large measure on renewed relations with NATO (European Commission, 2016). The 2017 NATO Summit provided a prominent opportunity for member states to evaluate and provide strategic direction for the activities of the Alliance, as well as for its relations with the EU. This article focuses on the 2017 NATO Summit in an attempt to identify the EU Twitter diplomacy leaders on security and defence. All tweets containing the hashtag #NATO, #OTAN or #WeAreNATO were collected over a 2–day period covering the Summit in May 2017. Only tweets posted by heads of state and government of EU member states attending the Summit, their respective ministries of foreign affairs and permanent representations to NATO were considered. The data gathered included the number of times each tweet was ‘liked’, ‘shared’ and ‘commented’. Through the aggregation of these metrics, a ranking of the most influential EU member states was created.
The present study thus ignores seven of the 28 EU member states: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden for not being members of the Alliance; the United Kingdom for being in the process of leaving the Union.
Military Strength and Twitter Influence The basic premise behind the comparison of a countryâ€™s military strength and its influence on Twitter during the 2017 NATO Summit is that a high military strength is a condition to be perceived as legitimate when communicating on security and defence matters within such a prominent setting. This alleged legitimacy, in turn, is believed to engender a greater ability to influence the public. Figure 1. Powerâ€“influence chart of EU member states.
Figure 1 indicates that there is no clear correlation between a country’s military strength and its influence on Twitter during the 2017 NATO Summit. Large military capabilities thus hardly guarantee to be perceived as legitimate and to rally support accordingly when communicating on security and defence matters. The comparison between Denmark (10th most powerful; 8th most influential) and Romania (9th; 11th) validates the view that military strength is a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition for being a Twitter diplomacy leader in this domain. In order to fathom the counterintuitive statistical dispersion of EU member states within the power–influence chart, two elements are to be considered. First, there are countries, such as Luxembourg, who may be militarily powerless but are particularly active on social networks regardless of the policy area (5032 ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’ generated). Second, other countries, such as Greece, are military powerful but virtually absent on Twitter (0 tweet posted). Notwithstanding the inconclusive nature of these tentative results, thus far it is possible to identify a group of seven ‘leaders’ that are both militarily powerful and digitally influential: France (1st; 1st), Germany (2nd; 5th), Spain (5rd; 3th), Italy (3rd; 6th), the Netherlands (8th; 7th), Poland (4th; 10th) and Denmark (10th; 8th).
The East-West Divide The geographical distribution of the results described above allows for the identification of a more salient characteristic of EU Twitter diplomacy leaders during the 2017 NATO Summit: they belong to Western Europe.
Figure 2. Map of EU member states’ influence on Twitter.
Figure 2 indeed indicates that the seven leaders nearly form a cohesive sub–regional bloc stretching along a Copenhagen–Madrid axis, whilst Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries are left in the periphery. There is one noteworthy exception to this unequal geographical distribution: Poland, the only CEE country to be part of the group of leaders (with each tweet posted generating an average of 23 ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’). Along similar lines, scholars have found that CEE embassies were in fact much less active on social networks than Western European ones (Dodd and Collins, 2017), making them mechanically less influential. Recent developments provide confirmatory evidence that the most influential EU member states on security and defence are indeed to be found at the Western edge of the Union. Since the beginning of the year 2017, the EU agenda on security and defence has been conflating with that of France and Germany to a remarkable extent (Kellner, 2017). The two leaders have jointly propounded and obtained the decision to establish a Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) within the EU Military Staff in Brussels, the launch of a European Defence Fund, as well as the ambitious and binding road map to finally give the Permanent Structured 45
Cooperation (PESCO) a start. They were systematically and openly supported by the European Commission, Italy, Spain, and the Benelux countries.
Towards More Integration In addition to showing an Eastâ€“West divide in leadership, the recent developments mentioned above indicate that the dominant political view amongst the leaders is to work towards more integration in the domain of security and defence, and to endorse the initiatives of the European Commission accordingly. The literature on national visions of European security and defence policy also suggests that the identified group of leaders is predominantly inclined to political integration in this policy area, despite not sharing the same drive to use force (Santopinto and Price, 2013). This does not mean that EU Twitter diplomacy followers, for the most part CEE countries, are not in favour of more integration. The issue of their political affiliations is clouded by their erratic use of Twitter as well as their much less visible position within the network. There seems to be therefore no compelling reason to suppose that the geographical divide doubles up as a political divide. At the very least, however, these elements combine and lend support to the view that the EU Twitter diplomacy leadership during the 2017 NATO Summit was as politically united as it was geographically cohesive.
Conclusion The Twitter diplomacy conducted by EU member states on the occasion of the 2017 NATO Summit shows that military strength is a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition to be a digital leader on security and defence. Digital influence rather depends on geographical and political affiliations. To be influential, it is virtually a requirement to be a Western European country. A closer look at their political agendas also indicates that the most influential member states are all in favour of more European integration in the area of security and defence, and that proâ€“integration member states are typically more influential.
The foregoing discussion implies that the political unity of the EU Twitter diplomacy leadership adds to its geographical cohesiveness, thereby preventing most CEE countries and potential dissenters from reaching the general public and rallying the support of the netizens. References: Barigazzi, J., 2017. EU’s Small Steps Toward (whisper it) a Military HQ. Politico, 28 February. Blockmans, S., & Faleg, G., 2015. More Union in European Defence. Brussels, CEPS. Dodd, M. D., & Collins, S. J., 2017. Public Relations Message Strategies and Public Diplomacy 2.0: An Empirical Analysis Using Central–Eastern European and Western Embassy Twitter Accounts. Public Relations Review, 43(2), 417–425. Dubois, E., & Gaffney, D., 2014. The Multiple Facets of Influence: Identifying Political Influentials and Opinion Leaders on Twitter. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(10), 1260–1277. European Commission, 2016. Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy. European Council, 2017. Conclusions on Security and Defence, 22 June. Gotev, G., 2017. EU Leaders Hail ‘Historic Step’ in Defence Cooperation. Euractiv, 22 June. Kellner, A., 2017. Assessing the CSDP After the June 2017 EU Summit. European Leadership Network, 6 July. Santopinto, F., & Price, M., 2013. National Visions of EU Defence Policy: Common Denominators and Misunderstandings. Brussels, CEPS.
The discursive creation of #Visegrád By Andreas Pacher It is still alive, and even more so on Twitter: frequently
Visegrád Group has been enjoying considerable political attention in the past years. But what keeps it so alive? Recent theories claim that it is the discourse that makes a region politically relevant. This article looks at the discursive Image: A photo taken during the V4’s summit with Nordic and Baltic countries (NB8) [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland /
creation of the hashtags #Visegrád and #V4 on Twitter.
The Visegrád Group has enjoyed increased attention on Twitter. Noteworthy peaks include the Brexit negotiations (670 Tweets), Poland’s refusal to endorse Donald Tusk’s second term as the European Council President (366 Tweets), and the V4’s stance on the refugee relocation quotas (270 Tweets).
Most Visegrád-related Tweets occur prior to European Council Summits; this indicates a strategy of timely pushing preferred agendas to influence decisive negotiations.
While in 2012 the entirety of #Visegrád-Tweets came from official accounts from the V4 countries, this share has fallen to roughly one fourth in the past four years.
Approximately 75% of official Tweets are posted by Polish accounts, followed by Slovak and Czech accounts. Hungary has conspicuously absented itself from tweeting about Visegrád.
Theoretical background Under the label of constructivism and postmodernism, recent thinkers have asserted that most political phenomena do not exist as such, but that they are socially constructed. The main building block with which to create them are discourses. By applying this logic, they find, for example, that security issues do not really exist unless they artificially emerge via sustained discussions through which elite actors rhetorically decorate the issue as a fundamental threat – there are no security issues unless they are labelled as such. Likewise, ‘regions’ have no objective reality. If you ask postmodernist constructivists what makes the Visegrád Group a region – i.e. the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, often abbreviated as V4 – they would claim that, at least analytically speaking, there are no shared geographical features, no common factual history, no ethnic commonalities, nothing but merely artificially created narratives that made the four countries a political grouping as it is today.
The Visegrád Group is still alive – particularly on Twitter The Visegrád Group has regularly been declared dead since its inception in 1991. After having attained its explicit goal of acquiring EU membership in 2004, the grouping’s raison d’être indeed faced the need to re-orientate in a shifted political setting. (Never mind that the founding declaration’s primary objective was the “full restitution of … democracy and freedom” – a neverending goal, according to Václav Havel, because it is inherently moral and moral ends know no limits. But the exploration of how far the V4’s ‘illiberal democracies’ are today from that primary objective is not the purpose of this article . . .). Regardless of the parenthesis you just read, the V4 is far from dead today. It achieved a splendid resurrection amidst the negotiations which threatened a cut of British welfare benefits for migrants, also called the anti-Brexit deal, during which the four states amplified their voices by insisting that it is their shared political stance rather than simply one small central European government’s whim. Today, the ones who oppose the EU-wide relocation of refugees are not primarily perceived as one or two Central European countries, but as the Visegrád Group as a whole. The perception of Visegrád as a significant player in EU politics increases their leverage, in particular for small countries such as Slovakia, which would otherwise have a hard time advocating for its cause against 27 other EU-Member States.
With Twitter having become a main venue of politicians’ communication with publics, let’s see how the hashtags #Visegrád and #V4 were used as a proxy to create the Visegrád Group as a region. I manually removed all the Tweets that obviously referred to the city Visegrád in Hungary or to Višegrad in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or where #V4 apparently referred to a music band or to a four-cylinder engine. I only filtered the Tweets that were posted during European Council Summits (EUCO) since 2010, in addition to three days preceding and three days following the EUCOs:
Figure 1: Number of Visegrád-related Tweets around the European Council Summits. The two-letter abbreviations refer to the EU country codes (e.g. ES = Spain; BE = Belgium; etc.)
This first graph allows the identification of two take-off points for the hashtags #Visegrád or #V4. A nascent start can be detected in 2012, interestingly right after the Polish Presidency of the Council (a clearer look can be seen in Fig. 3 below). A more decisive departure finally took place in 2014. A first peak was reached during the September 2015 EUCO with 270 Tweets – that was the very same summit during which Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia, together with Romania, openly voiced their opposition to the refugee relocation plans. The highest surge so far occurred during the EUCO in February 2016 (with 652 Tweets): The most prominent topic was now Visegrád’s perceived decisive role as the main opponent against David Cameron’s Anti-Brexit-plans. British Prime Minister Cameron’s intent to restrict social benefits for migrant workers in the UK propelled the V4 onto the center stage of these negotiations. The Visegrád Group shrewdly exploited their political clout, which is reflected in the unprecedented attention the region enjoyed in political discussions on Twitter. 50
The graph demonstrates that the V4 has become a regular factor that needs to be taken into account for each European Council Summit. In June 2016, the meeting between the V4 and Germany received great attention, and in September 2016, it was an Austrian right-wing politician and presidential candidate Norbert Hofer’s assertion that Austria should join the V4. During that EUCO, moreover, V4 asserted that it could block Brexit – which, again, led to an immense surge of #Visegrád. In the first half of 2017, tweeting about the V4 outpoured when Poland spectacularly refused to endorse the continuation of Donald Tusk’s term as Council President (March 2017), and when the V4 met with Emmanuel Macron (which alone sparked 156 Tweets) before enjoying yet another summit with the Benelux countries (June 2017).
The timing of the Tweets Breaking down the Tweets to those before, during, and after the EUCO reveals an interesting picture:
One can detect a trend that the V4 sends political signals before the EUCOs. This strategy of framing their agenda prior to the decisive summits probably seeks to influence the negotiations. During the EUCO, ‘Twiplomacy’ reaches its traditional presence, but discussions about #Visegrád visibly abate after the meetings. Not only does the graph show that the Central European countries systematically seek to influence the EUCO negotiations, but also that there may be a deliberate and joint effort to promote the idea of a strong and united V4 group everytime there is such a prominent international meeting. The discursive work of constructing V4 is not detached from time; the effort is rather linked to temporal factors that strategically heighten the region’s relevance.
Which V4 country tweets most? As the first graph above depicted it with the orange bars next to the blue ones, the share of the V4 countries’ official Twitter accounts tweeting about Visegrád is sometimes considerable. Before 2014, that official share accounted for 100% of all Tweets about the region. From 2014 to 2017, the proportion fell to an average of 23,86 %, meaning that roughly three fourths of all Tweets about V4 are today conducted by outsiders. This lends support to the claim that the construction of V4 through discourses was a success. Breaking this official share down to the respective member state reveals a striking pattern:
Figure 3: Share of the V4 countries' official accounts responsible for Tweets with #Visegrad or #V4.
Figure 3 does not only show with greater clarity that the official discursive creation of #Visegrád took off in 2012, i.e. right after the Polish Council Presidency during which Poland might have learned the value of social media presence. It also shows that it is precisely this country which is the significant motor behind the hashtag; Poland accounted for 100% of official Tweets until well into 2013, a share that only fell to an average of 62,19 % between 2015 and 2017. Slovakia (18 % in average during 2015-2017) and the Czech Republic (15 % in the same timeframe) have recently been competing for the second place, while Hungary is the least enthusiast Tweeter in this regard (less than 5% in the past three years). The numbers for the period between 2016 and the first half of 2017 are different inasmuch that Poland even accounted for approximately 75 % of all official Tweets.
Conclusion What this article showed is that the four Central European countries, led by Poland, succeeded in constructing the idea of a resurrected, strong and united Visegrád Group. It was not difficult to repeatedly declare the death of the Visegrád Group at times when media attention was still low. But this has changed with the ascendance of Twiplomacy. The V4’s stances are often at odds with the rest of the EU’s, so much that they effectively block coordinated policies. This adversity has clearly helped to ‘regionalize’ the group. Social media mirror this trend, and Twitter demonstrates that the V4 has become a politically relevant factor in EU politics. However, imbalances are conspicuous – it is solely Poland which drives the presence of #Visegrád or #V4, at least among official accounts, while Slovakia and the Czech Republic only exert a smaller degree of social media clout. Hungary seems absent. This article was merely impressionistic and is based on an informal research. A scientific approach should pursue questions about the discursive creation of the Visegrád Group in a rigorous methodology with explicit intercoder reliability and a clear coding of variables, and it should go beyond mere quantifications to identify reasons for the observed trends and patterns. This text is nevertheless highly indicative of how shrewd, or less so, officials strategically use Twiplomacy, and of what accounts for the discursive liveliness of #Visegrád.
Social media in government communications in Ukraine: expert opinions By Yana Hryshko Nowadays social media (SM) have penetrated every area of our life and it is hard to imagine a day without checking our social networks. It is not a surprise that they also influence governmental communication. As the first and the most important function of SM is communication, they became a powerful tool for governments to deliver their messages. However, this tool has its pros and cons and the influence of SM on government communications is not completely clear. The situation in Ukraine is even more interesting because SM in GR have started to become widely used only a few years ago. I asked three experts in government communications in Ukraine to shed light on the relevant situation in Ukraine with its challenges and opportunities. Nouvelle Europe interviewed three Ukrainian experts in government communications, each of whom exhibit expertise with specific aspects. Mykola Kosenko is an expert in communications through SM by government, Yaroslav Zheleznyak focuses on the communication of the government, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in particular, with the Ukrainian parliament. Roman Ilto is a communications expert with more than 17 years of experience, and was the head of the communication campaign of the reform of state owned enterprises.
Interview with Mykola Kosenko -
Can we state that government communications through SM have reached the top of
popularity or is it just the beginning? I think that it is only the beginning of using SM in government communication, we can say about the top of popularity in one or two years. - Can we trace the turning point from which SM have started being widely used in Ukraine? If yes, what was the trigger?
Yes, I think the turning point was the Revolution of Dignity about three years ago in 2014. There are three reasons; first, a lot of politicians, political figures, diplomats and other public personalities started using SM, secondly, people in general started using SM more actively, and thirdly, more and more traditional medias are using SM as well. - How would you measure a successful media day in SM? I think it can be measured with several indicators. Firs of all, it is of course ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ and a good engagement rate. Interesting and reasonable questions in comments. Also, a lot of ‘shares’ and ‘retweets’ by traditional media. And the best result is if it was shown on TV. And as regards to foreign affairs, if your tweet or post has been shared by foreign credible media or maybe by foreign politicians and officials. - Can you provide us with an example of successful media campaign in Ukrainian SM space? #StopRussianAggression is a very good example or #BanRussiaFromSwift. They were at the top lists on Twitter for a long period of time, and they are still being used whenever necessary and relevant. Many hashtags related to Ukraine’s European integration like #Besvis or #UkraineisEurope are also popular. This is a way to exert pressure from the side of public opinion. - How has the SM participation of ordinary citizens, particularly during the Revolution of Dignity, shaped Ukraine’s governmental communication? The influence is certainly large because, first of all, a lot of new people started using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Also, we can witness the emergence of many bloggers after the revolution, there had been very few of them before, and now they are thousands, some of them as popular as professional media. Another point is that we have a lot of bloggers and volunteers working at the East of Ukraine and providing updates of the current situation using SM. And very often they are even faster than traditional media. As a result, they have a lot of followers and they promote communication through SM. - What is the main driver of politicians’ use of SM in Ukraine?
I think the main drivers are traditional media that are using SM, but also the quantity of people who started using SM. For example, 2-3 years ago there were only a few hundred thousand Ukrainian users on Facebook, but now it has grown to more some millions of people. The same is true with Twitter. - If one of the main drivers is that people have started using SM more often, does it mean that politicians became ‘responsive’ and want to be seen as ‘modern’? Yes, they want to be modern, but they also want to be on time and want to be the first. For example, they have a meeting and they can use the instrument of live transmission. Sometimes the traditional media are not the first. You have to be first. We can see examples of many politicians who are on air, live, now, at this very moment. - Does it mean that SM help politicians and government to be at the forefront of the newsmaking and agenda-setting? Yes, and to be independent. Because traditional media are sometimes biased. They can bring up only some parts. They can extract what they think is important and they may put something out of the context. But now politicians deliver their own point first without any interpretation. - Are there any differences in use between the various forms of SM communication? Are they used to target different audiences? I work differently for different SM. For instance, Facebook is more often used to communicate with the general public, while Twitter is more directed at local and foreign media. Sometimes, some TV channels use screenshots of politicians’ profiles on Facebook, but in my opinion and experience, it is more for communication with people. Instagram is also for people, but, I think that it helps politicians to bring up more about informal communication. - What influence have SM made on traditional communications with press and people? I think that if traditional media are not using SM now they do not exist. Almost all popular media have created their pages in social networks and actively promote them. On these pages, they started using some really interesting and modern content, however, not all of them manage to do so because competition is very high. 56
- What is more effective, SM or traditional means? Is it about current situation? - Yes, what works better now? As we still have press conferences and official statements and so on. Both are now very important. Even when politicians go to press conferences they have translation at their own pages. So, we have the information delivered by both channels. Secondly, after participating in some events or meetings, officials create posts at their official pages, sometimes they just post some interesting and important information, and these posts are widely used by the traditional media. So, I think, government now communicates 60-70% of information through traditional means, but 30 % through SM. But I think that in a few years it will change dramatically, as just a few years ago it was 90% to 10% respectively. - Do officials compete with opinion leaders in SM? Is the government afraid of opinion leaders? I think that some of them compete, some of them don't. But in most cases the most important is still the quantity of followers. Who is more popular and readable and thus influential. Some of them may compete for followers, for their audience. - There are different people using SM and opinion leaders are often not experts in some areas. Is it difficult to resist unfair criticism in SM? As you have mentioned the emergence of big quantity of bloggers and of so-called opinion leaders, this question became even more relevant, especially considering that some of them may not have expertise in specific questions, but still have big influence due to their number of readers. Consequently, they may mislead people's perception and impede the government's job in communicating policies and initiatives. What is the state of affairs with concerning this issue? This is a very interesting question. And I want to bring up the phenomena of "zrada" and "peremoha" in Ukrainian SM space. [Zrada: the direct translation is ‘treason’ but it is used in the meaning of ‘failure’; Peremoha: ‘victory’, ‘win’]. Now zrada appears in numerous cases and some people judge very fast when they see these indicators. Something unfavorable happened – zrada, zrada, zrada. You hear it very often everywhere. And a lot of people actually grew with the help of 57
zrada claim, gained a lot of followers. The truth is that in most cases these zrada posts are not informationally complete. I mean, they do not introduce anything with numbers, statistics or relevant facts, but people are lazy to learn and check themselves and they just believe someone who has a lot of followers. What should the government and other politicians do? They should be more communicative, more open to a dialogue, operate high quality information – names, facts, numbers, details, etc.
I want to say that officials and governments must work with their
audience, especially with bloggers, they must speak to them, with both supporters and haters, irrespective of whether they are zrada or peremoha bloggers. On the one hand, SM have created a platform to express our opinions, and they have given a voice to people who could not be heard before, and this often brings new critics to light. Often, these criticisms are not constructive and not justified. There is actually another interesting phenomenon in our SM space called “dyvanna sotnia”, a “sofa hundred”, people who just criticize anything done by the government. - Did it become more difficult or easier to promote policy agendas and initiatives in the age of SM? I think that this way of communication is one more opportunity to promote some agendas and initiatives. We can see it with the example of successful media campaigns that have been held in SM, like recent medreforma campaign [a campaign which started in SM in support of medical reform in Ukraine, in order to use public opinion to influence on the parliament], or "stop Russian aggression" [a campaign that started in Ukraine and has been endorsed in many other countries by using the hashtag #StopRussianAggression] and so on. They have become very popular in Ukrainian SM space and even abroad. So, SM are an important and useful tool to gain the support of people and to attract their attention. Even considering the emergence of sofa critics I think it brought more positive outcomes.
Interview with Yaroslav Zheleznyak - Can we state that government communications through SM have reached the top of popularity or is it just the beginning? I think that it is just the beginning. The situation will change. The trend is clearly growing, however, it is sometimes overestimated. Communications through SM will be different in the 58
future, they will be more systematized, more qualitative, more structured, but now it is definitely not at the top of popularity. - You have mentioned that they are ”overestimated“, what do you mean? Ukrainians are more open to government communications than in any other country where SM are more developed. In other countries, they have a more systematized process. Ideally, it should be the proper work of the press service when officials spend less time on communication through SM while providing more complete information. - How would you measure a successful media day in SM? The most important of course is ‘shares’, but what is even more important is who shares. If the content was shared by opinion leaders, government officials, ministers, deputy ministers, members of parliament, this is an indicator that it has been successfully promoted. This shows that the content was relevant and important. What is also important is virality of the content [Virality of the content is the ability of the content to promote itself without additional help of web-experts, when people want to share it]. - Can you provide us with an example of successful media campaign in Ukrainian SM space? For example, the campaign about the law on freelance export 4496, which from the very beginning until the end has been held in SM. It was a great success, we did a great job on working with the audience. That can be a perfect example for communication through SM. Another example is the Amendment to the Law on ProZorro about cybersecurity [ProZorro is an Ukrainian procurement electronic system]. The scandal was first exposed in SM which influenced the adoption if these amendments. Medreforma is another example. - What factors do you consider to be the main drivers of using SM in government communications in Ukraine? First of all, now we have the trend that if you are young and progressive you should use SM. Secondly, it is a very convenient way to deliver your message to a very wide audience, to journalists, people, government officials, experts, NGOs etc. According to my own experience, there is nothing more convenient than to write a post on Facebook and to cover all the 59
stakeholders you need to involve within one move. Therefore, this is the most effective and convenient way. And the third driver is that in the case of Ukraine, our traditional media may not very actively work, which is why people started looking for other sources of news and analyses. - Are there any differences in use between the various forms of SM communication? Are they used to target different audiences? I think that in the first place, they are used for communication with each other. I mean that politicians are communicating with politicians and experts are communicating with experts and so on. Only after that the purpose becomes to show to the other audience what happened. That makes SM primarily a tool of communication among equal ranks of stakeholders who show that â€˜I am a good guy who did this and thatâ€™ and, in the second place, a tool of communication with people and media. In the case of people and media, they are directed to both to the same extent. - What influence have SM made on traditional communications with press and people? Of course, they change the traditional means. Try to find another way when you can so easily talk to a member of the parliament of another government official or to have a discussion with them. State your mind and in a few minutes, you can have a passionate discussion about the issue of your concern. SM also made communication with officials more open, people can see their personal life, read their comments, learn about their position. It makes them much closer and open. - Do officials compete with opinion leaders in SM? I consider that as an equal communication. A politician is a person with some social assets, and an opinion leader is a person with some social assets, and they compete with each other as equal units. And in this case, they compete over the audience, not with each other, their purpose is to deliver the message to the target audience, not to change the view of the adversary. - There are different people using SM, and opinion leaders are often not experts in some areas. Is it difficult to resist unfair criticism in SM?
Everyone decides for himself or herself. Yes, this is a problem. But it has always existed in media, in press and in social networks. It is not an invention which emerged with the development of SM. First of all, I am sure that one day we will start using Twitter more actively since communication there is more interactive. Secondly, I am more than sure that these things will be ignored by both sides. A politician has stated his or her opinion, and that's all. Continuing discussion is usually counterproductive. Opinion leaders, from their side, very often gain their support through opposing their opinions to the government and providing counterarguments. Therefore, not receiving feedback to their lunges they will not receive the vibes of their popularity. Soft ignoring and changing the flow of the discussion in another direction will help to get rid of these attacks. For example, Kobolev [the head of Haftogas, a Ukrainian energy SOE], he states his positions and then does not react to populistic statements of opinion leaders because he deems it a waste of time, he will not prove to the audience that opinion leaders' statements are not correct. Instead of him it may be done by his followers and advocates. It should be an exchange of positions, not a dialogue.
Interview with Roman Ilto The Internet seems to be an easy tool for communication, but it turns out that in reality, it is not a tool for different groups with different opinions to communicate among each other and to arrive at some sort of a compromise. More often, people use the Internet to become autonomous and to find the evidence to the views they are already subscribed for. For example, if you are on Facebook you tend to make friends with people who share your opinions and over some time you are comfortably surrounded by people who share the same opinions. You get the newsfeeds which suit your interests and views you already have, and it is rare that you will be exposed to the views of the other camp. Thus, SM, instead of promoting the exchange of ideas across different camps, it most often works to protect people from the views of the other camp. - What influence have SM made on traditional communications with press and people? Well, I think the biggest changes would be that the Internet and SM impose incredibly high demands on transparency. You are expected to share information almost 24/7 about every step that you make, otherwise people might start questioning why are you not sharing the information. This even reaches the point when you do not disclose information for legitimate reasons, people are questioning why you are not doing that.
A second point pertains to the speed of communication. People expect you to be able to respond within minutes or a half an hour to a crisis to a situation to present the view and do it in a very quick manner. And thirdly, I think people are more and more used to be entertained in communication, and they are more and more used to receiving the information in smaller bits and chunks. So very rarely people would go for long reads or opinions. You need to do a short video that would deliver the message and also entertain people, or you are not expected to just post a press release, you must add some graphs, some infographics, maybe some engaging story behind it. Those I think are the main changes. And another important thing is that the internet, and especially the high speed internet has made it possible to share videos and images. And they are very powerful communication tools. A video and a picture tells your story that is worth a thousand words. So not only do people expect to get their communication in graphic forms or to be accompanied by images or by a video, the thing is that sometimes even if the viewpoint that you are presenting is transparent and open and so on, people would believe what they see in the picture rather than the story which has very reliable sources. So, people would rather trust what they see in the picture without thinking about the source of the picture, the context, whether it shows you the whole story or a part of it, or what it actually says. They believe an image rather than a story which cites the sources which was the traditional form of communication. - What is more effective for governments communications â€“ SM or traditional means? Neither of that. - What is effective then? All the tools are available â€“ traditional tools like interviews, press conferences, talk shows, or you can go on SM. The thing that politicians like is the credible, tangible outcomes, results which they can present. And the biggest thing which you can do to convince people is to deliver a reform or deliver some sort of a government service in a way which would be felt by people. For example, you can talk a lot about the reform of the police system and how the internal procedures are changing and how new people are coming in and so on. And what people actually see and perceive is that we have a new patrol police in new uniforms, in new vehicles, new look, 62
fresh faces on the streets where people can see them, touch them, say hello and get the interaction. Thus, in my opinion, this is a reform which was well communicated because the reform itself is amenable to communication in that tangible and visible way. Say, if you take the reform of the gas market, it is a challenge to present a credible picture of what has changed beyond the actual prices that you can see and the fact you avoided billions of dollars of potential loss by successfully winning in the Stockholm arbitration court, or that you have introduced a market mechanism for pricing of natural gas. And there is no picture behind it, nothing visual, and it is not so close to people that they can feel the positive impact of the reform. Therefore, the best way to communicate a reform is to do something which has an impact on a large group of people in a positive way as soon as possible. And as soon as they start seeing the positive outcome, they start associating the benefit of it with the reform. It does not matter in which way you communicate it. After that you can communicate around it and there is hardly a wrong way to do it. But if you do not have that background with a tangible outcome which everybody feels, then you can use whatever means â€“ the communication will be weak eventually. - There are different people using SM and opinion leaders are often not experts in some areas. Is it difficult to resist unfair criticism in SM? Well, there is a big problem that there is more communications and the internet enables almost everyone to have a voice. It inevitably leads to the problem that it devalues the value of expertise. For instance, if you are a trained doctor, pretty much everyone thinks that you are an expert in the field, but, say, if it is a field that is less technical and if you are not an engineer but a public policy expert or a public servant, then pretty much everyone can have an opinion on how things need to be done or how the country needs to be run. Everyone thinks they are the expert and it is difficult for people to make sense out of it. And fundamentally, I think, the problem is that you have a group of experts who are truly experts in public policy, but their communication capacity is really weak, and it is weak because as experts they communicate in a complex way, because the subject matter is complex and as experts they recognize that complexity. So, their communication is not effective because people want simple messages, they want simple answers to complex questions. Then you have politicians or public servants who have expertise in either policy or politics but they very often do not have the trust of people. Fundamentally, that is a problem because they can communicate effectively and in a simple language but people do not trust them. Once you become a politician or a government official people tend to trust you less 63
because, first of all, they think that the system is corrupt and you are a part of it, and that is because they are not seeing positive results for themselves. And second reason is that as a public official you start withholding some information because it is sensitive or hasn't been verified and you are bound by these restrictions. And there are opinion leaders, people who are not politicians, not public servants, not policy experts but they are someone whom people trust. They may trust them for different reasons. For example, they may trust Skrypka [an Ukrainian musician] because he is a good musician and naturally has a group of people who are his fans and he says things that are sensible things not only about music but on other topics and people tend to think that he is a credible person. While these people have a lot of credibility they are not experts in the field and they can provide simple answers that people want, but usually it is not a recipe that can be implemented, usually it is that we need to do things better or to be more transparent and so on. Or why you cannot just rewrite all the laws and constitution. So yes, there is clearly a challenge for the government, because whatever they communicate, they will be challenged by experts and they need to recognize this challenge because very often it is dismissed. They need to recognize this challenge if they want to sell the reforms to people. Basically, what they need to do is when they come to power they need to think that whatever action they take they need to evaluate it not only in terms of what is the policy impact but how it can be communicated. Can it be communicated effectively, can the policy decision be designed in a way that it makes a great positive impact for people so they associate it with the reform. Unless this exercise is done, very often what you see is a policy decision or a press release explaining with all this complicated language what they will do, and at the same time you have all the so-called experts or opinion leaders that will come out and say â€?this is all wrong, that is all wrongâ€œ. For example, a few days ago the antimonopoly committee has released that it is going to make a decision to basically merge all its regional offices into larger clusters, so there will be fewer bureaucrats working and fewer offices. And you have a former minister of sports who is an opinion leader who then went to fight in Eastern Ukraine, and he is a head of a NGO now, and he is making comments on how the government agencies should go on this merge, whether they should do it or not and so on. You thus have a person who is not part of decision making process, who was exposed to government decision making and he is not an expert on antimonopoly matters but he has an opinion and people who support him and he is trying to deliver his opinion and suddenly you have a challenge and you need to explain the reform. 64
- Did it become more difficult or easier to promote policy agendas and initiatives in the age of SM? I think it became more difficult to communicate the reforms. - Because of opinion leaders? Because of how the whole system works. Right now, all that the expert on antimonopoly has to do to communicate his view is to create a Facebook post and to tag the head of the antimonopoly service. And if the head is not responding he can say "oh, look they are hiding something, he is avoiding the straight question, he is not giving me the answer". And before, for his opinion to be heard, he would have to go to the newspaper, to a journalist. The journalist would probably interview him and write a piece, and the editor would consider "but is this guy an expert in the field? No. So why are we asking him about his opinion?'' So, he didn't have much of a voice in the old system, but now with Facebook, with Youtube, he can make himself heard. And it is up to people to decide wether he is credible or not. And very often people are not good at deciding what is credible and what is not credible. Very often they would think that a credible source is the one that has similar views with their own. This is a type of bias when people go only for opinion which is close to their own. If they, for whatever reason, disagree with a head of antimonopoly service they will subscribe to that viewpoint. - But on the other hand, it helps people who are experts and who could not be heard in the past. Exactly, on the other hand it helps real experts to communicate their viewpoint. That is true. Except with the restrictions that being experts they are not very good at communicating in a simple way because the subject matter is very complex. They will come with caveats and all the nuances and people do not like caveats and nuances. They want clear answers: when will my salary go up? When will my pension be higher? They don't want to hear all the complexity and so on. But it is also good in a way if you work as a new politician and you have difficulties with accessing the traditional media, now you can circumvent it like Navalnyi in Russia [having difficulties with access to traditional media, Navalnyi uses his Youtube channel which now is more popular than some traditional media]. Of course, in countries like Ukraine or Russia you have a limited audience in Facebook and Youtube. It may be millions of people but it is not tens 65
of millions, not hundreds of millions. In the US and in Europe, it is different. Yes, the Internet gives voices to all kinds of people, for example, to new politicians who are trying to build a support base, but it can also give the voice to people who are not experts on the subject but they also can have an opinion. It is just the matter of people to decide whether they want to listen to that opinion because he is credible, because he has a reputation, or because he is an expert on the field. Or whether they just listen to him because it feels good since it confirms their preexisting views.