Courtesy: AUN News
Knowing that international affairs are becoming increasingly more complex, the United Nations created the International Day of Diplomacy in 2012 to help encourage practical and innovative thinking on the part of diplomats and governments to foster an environment conducive to diplomatic relations on the global stage. What does this mean for today’s world? It means there has never been a greater need for international cooperation and understanding among nations – which could not be achieved without Cyber-diplomacy.
What do social media, transnational corporations, and the United Nations have in common? They are all primary contributors to a new type of diplomacy – one that takes place in the digital realm. In today’s interconnected world, where commerce has no borders and social issues affect everyone differently, cyber-diplomacy has become one of the most potent forces affecting international society. What is Cyber-diplomacy? How does Cyber-diplomacy impact the global community? What is the necessity of Cyber-diplomacy in the digital age? We will address these questions below.
Cyber-diplomacy is international affairs conducted through cyber means, particularly between state entities. To understand the necessity of cyber diplomacy and its impact on the global community, it is necessary to know what a digital age or cyberspace is. The digital age or cyberspace is an era wherein computers and interconnected networks control most aspects of life. To conduct international affairs with other countries, we mustn’t forget this shift towards the virtual world in which so much of our lives are nowadays.
States will have to move beyond important face-to-face contact with other countries and invest significantly in digital technology for international relations. They must consider how global society will be shaped in this time of rapid technological change and potential advantages and risks. Making of an International community: As nation states become more involved in cyberspace, they need to establish a proper international society with international law and regulation taking precedence over domestic laws where applicable. Organizations like NATO and G8 can also guide nations’ cyber policy decisions. While no one can predict the future, there are many possibilities if we work together.
What is cyber-diplomacy? The best definition of cyber-diplomacy comes from Jonathan Foust’s work. He states that CYBER DIPLOMACY can be generally described as using the internet and digital technologies for diplomacy. He goes on to note that this new form of communication allows people in many different countries to communicate with one another more easily. It also creates a virtual venue where people with different viewpoints can come together and share their thoughts, which would not have been possible before these technologies were invented.
Some believe that it will lead to a fairer global society because it makes information available to those who would not have had access before. However, others worry about privacy and security issues because this type of communication does not require face-to-face contact, so there are risks involved when exchanging personal information online or through email (such as the risk of identity theft). Additionally, some argue that the social benefits are often overstated. Others contend that cyber-diplomacy’s positive impact is diminished by limitations such as bandwidth constraints and censorship.
Benefits of Cyber-Diplomacy
There are many benefits to the making of international society through cyber diplomacy. As it is much more complex and vaster than what was possible before, there is more opportunity for increased dialogue, education, and knowledge. For example, with these new technologies comes a powerful impact on education because it can be shared throughout many different borders as we learn how to interact in this digital age. Thus, with cyber diplomacy being made up, there will be a tremendous positive impact on how we connect globally because through this technology, there will be great ease between languages and viewpoints, allowing us to share information pertinent to all individuals across world lines.
One thing that cyber diplomacy does not allow for is having meetings in person or interacting face-to-face. These interactions may seem pointless and unimportant, but that is not true. The existence of cyber diplomacy has primarily impacted the human element, so some people believe it should be done away with. However, even though communication can take place digitally in this digital age, there still needs to be a human element for any relationship to grow into something worthwhile.
Furthermore, one disadvantage of Cyber-diplomacy is that this process creates impartiality. That’s why when people meet in person, they need to make sure they don’t let their personal beliefs color their judgment because if they do, it could affect diplomatic relationships at significant scale levels. Another disadvantage is that the act of diplomacy makes people question where a country stands politically, socially, and economically. With this fear coming to light, many countries have begun to monitor their digital footprints since anything you post on social media, who you speak to, or your search history could come back to haunt you. For example, Australia blocked Chinese telecom giant Huawei from supplying equipment for its broadband network over security concerns about Chinese law requiring the entities under its control to cooperate with requests from Chinese authorities.
Therefore, because cyberspace and politics have intersected, politics now controls cyberspace rather than cyberspace controlling politics, which gives rise to problems within online diplomatic communications, such as computer hacking.
Challenges in Traditional Diplomacy
Traditional diplomacy has been a part of society for centuries and is often practiced through face-to-face meetings. This costly and time-consuming process takes up significant government resources, which has rendered it a procedure only available to wealthy or powerful countries. This also gives certain countries a monopoly on decisions made as they are not accountable to their people who voted them into power. All this conspires to establish an uneasy world order based on military might, nuclear threats, and terrorism.
The need for cyber diplomacy became abundantly clear during 2011’s Arab Spring revolutions when social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, played an instrumental role in bringing together pro-democracy activists -sometimes with just one tweet or post. A key leader of Egypt’s revolution against Hosni Mubarak used his cell phone to call for support from friends in the region before meeting in person with them. These events have helped reshape international relations and have led to many governments recognizing the necessity of using cyberspace as an important diplomatic tool.
Despite these developments, there are still challenges to be faced. Many governments maintain strict control over internet usage within their borders while others censor free speech online, making it difficult to create any sense of unity between nations that use such different methods. There is also concern over whether there should be limits on what type of information can be shared online due to the possibility of offensive or disturbing content. Political and religious dissent is forbidden in some countries, such as China, and political and religious conflict is forbidden, so these conversations cannot happen in cyberspace.
Countries like Turkey have created laws that block content associated with Kurds and other minorities from reaching citizens’ screens because of fears about separatism. Another issue facing Cyber-diplomacy is whether cyber security issues are dealt with adequately by national authorities. The WikiLeaks scandal highlighted how dangerous it could be if sensitive data were released without protection or encryption on the web by hacker groups or rogue states seeking to embarrass opponents by leaking classified material. It remains unclear if officials can guarantee this will never happen again.
Challenges of cyber-Diplomacy
Cyber security is a pressing issue that will only worsen with time. This can create an unstable relationship between nation-states and raise other challenges. For example, cyberspace has no borders or barriers when information travels on the internet, so national governments find it hard to control what their citizens say or see. These are just a few issues cyberspace can cause, but they must keep in mind when addressing cyber-diplomacy. Suppose we want to have diplomatic relations with other countries and to make peace between nations. In that case, we need some form of communication and diplomacy – this is where cyber-diplomacy comes into play.
Cyber-diplomacy is still new, but it has already shown its usefulness when dealing with international conflicts. For example, cyber-diplomacy was used to help Syria after allegations surfaced about chemical weapons being used against civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. In response to these allegations, US Secretary of State John Kerry sent out Tweets condemning the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The US government released these tweets on Twitter through @statedeptsyria, which has over 90,000 followers. They have continued to be quite active since then. Many experts believe that this tweet helped Syrian activists rally together and organize against President Assad’s regime, which resulted in protests being held across the country to pressure his regime.
The impact of cyber-diplomacy is clear because it helped start a change in Syria and could do the same for many other countries worldwide. One expert from Carnegie Mellon University says It would not be surprising if ten years from now, every major city in America had a ‘situation room’ where local officials and representatives from various levels of government monitor events unfolding in real-time on social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. By 2025, billions of devices will be connected to the internet, and most people will have at least one device connected to them 24 hours a day. The internet is becoming more and more centralized. To combat this, cybersecurity needs to become an integral part of digital infrastructure before power grids, traffic systems, etc., become too dependent on computers and thus vulnerable to hacking. Therefore, cyber-diplomacy becomes necessary because international society cannot thrive without it.
Cyber-diplomacy is necessary for establishing and sustaining international society. There are numerous examples where cyber diplomacy has been instrumental in resolving conflicts, information dissemination, and more. The diplomatic relations between China and India have seen a significant increase in popularity because of the extensive use of social media among young people. A top military general’s hacked email account caused a twenty-minute outage at North Korea’s propaganda arm, Uriminzokkiri. According to Business Insider, Russians spend an average of 13 hours per day online while Belarusians spend an average of 4 hours online, according to LiveInternet statistics! These figures prove that cyberspace has become integrated into everyday life in this digital age.
For example, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom tweeted about how his father’s decision to study Chinese as a child made him the perfect person to found a company with offices around the world that now connects us with our friends no matter where we are (1). In 2012, protests began in Syria when people took their grievances to Facebook and Twitter rather than protesting on the streets. When Iran held a presidential election, the American government encouraged Iranian citizens to go onto Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns during live televised debates; thus helping Iranians access unbiased information (2). In 2011, Google created Google Ideas, leading other companies like Facebook and Twitter to hire employees who speak Mandarin or add country-specific support centers (3).
Even though these may not be traditional diplomat tasks, they allow organizations like Google, Ideas, or Facebook to act as intermediaries by making communication possible so that dialogue can occur within countries that would otherwise be closed off from each other due to language barriers or political restrictions. Implementing initiatives like these shows that Cyber-diplomacy will continue to be an essential part of the international society in the future.
Author: Arindam Bhattacharya
Chairman, Advocacy Unified Network