AFP’s e-diplomacy hub shows digital diplomacy in action on Twitter

26 Jun 2012

News agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) has launched the e-diplomacy hub, a web application that shows how political figures, activists and even militant groups are using Twitter.

Digital diplomacy can be defined as the use of social networks by states and civil society to further foreign policy goals and influence public opinion, and the AFP e-diplomacy hub shows this in real-time, collating tweets from heads of state and government, diplomats, experts, foreign correspondents and activists from more than 150 countries.

The app whittles down Twitter’s 400m accounts to tweets from more than 4,000 relevant accounts, and this curated data is then displayed across interactive maps, tables and Twitter feeds.

The site monitors what hashtags these tweeters are using most and measures their influence on the social network. Algorithms designed by AFP measure levels of influence for both states and individuals, and calculate which issues are dominating the global conversation among digital diplomats.

AFP e-diplomacy ranking

The most influential diplomatic figure overall is US President Barack Obama, with more than 16m Twitter followers, far beyond Ireland’s top figure, President Michael D Higgins, who has just more than 16,000 followers.

Other influential figures in Ireland are Sinn Féin, Irish Times correspondents Mary Fitzgerald and Deaglán De Bréadún, and Anonymous Ireland.

AFP Anonymous

The presence of the hacktivist group is due to the site’s inclusion of tweets from activists, political thinkers and illegal armed groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas and Hezbollah in Israel, and FARC in Colombia. A dedicated section illustrates how these groups use Twitter to announce actions and promote their aims.

AFP Hezbollah

“The e-diplomacy hub was designed as a thinking person’s toy, but it turns out to be useful to professionals, too,” said Marlowe Hood, editor of AFP’s Geopolitics blog, which hosts the application.

The e-diplomacy hub is open for public access for several months and, following that, a decision will be made whether or not to commercialise it for professional use or for the media.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.