From a Diplomat’s F-Word to Sochi’s Hotel Horrors, It’s Been Twitter’s Big Week

  • 10th February 2014
From a Diplomat’s F-Word to Sochi’s Hotel Horrors, It’s Been Twitter’s Big Week

U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland leaves after holding a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev on Feb. 7Photograph by Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland leaves after holding a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev on Feb. 7

This was the week Twitter (TWTR) established itself as a force in international relations.

The U.S. is scrambling to contain fallout in the European Union from a tweeted audio clip in which Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said, “f––– the EU.” The comment was from a private phone call between Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, regarding the EU’s role in resolving that country’s political crisis.

The call was apparently intercepted by Russian intelligence services in January, and a clip was posted on YouTube (GOOG) on Feb. 5 by someone calling himself Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, the name of a fictional Dostoevsky character. But the clip didn’t get much attention until an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted it on Feb. 6.

Russia, meanwhile, suffered its own embarrassment as the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics risked being overshadowed by a popular Twitter feed featuring accounts of Sochi hotels with yellow tap water, missing doorknobs, and bizarre toilet configurations. At the start of tonight’s opening ceremonies, the feed had attracted 235,000 followers, while the official Sochi2014 feed had only 144,000.

My boss, Josh Tyrangiel, reminds us that reports about Greece’s unpreparedness for the 2004 Athens Olympics faded quickly once the games began. He’s right—but back in 2004 there was no Twitter to keep the conversation going once journalists got busy covering the games.

Nonjournalists in Sochi are now tweeting their own hotel horror stories, along with reports this evening of a technical malfunction that caused only four of the five Olympic rings to display at the opening ceremony.

Until now, political leaders seemed to view Twitter as a benign communications tool that had the added advantage of conveying that they’re cool with social media. A study last year by Burson Marsteller found that two-thirds of world leaders had set up Twitter feeds. Twitter has become “a formal broadcasting tool for world leaders,” the study found.

President Barack Obama’s Twitter feed has the most followers of any leader’s, 41.3 million at latest count. Pope Francis is No. 2, with more than 11 million followers.

Lower-ranking officials use Twitter, too. Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia (60,000 followers), used Twitter to announce his resignation on Feb. 4. There’s even a Twitter account where Washington’s diplomatic community can share “ideas and best practices” for digital diplomacy.

But the events of the past few days show that Twitter can be a diplomatic weapon as well as a tool—and that once wielded, its consequences can be hard to control. The U.S. can probably soothe hurt feelings in Europe over Nuland’s comments. But in other parts of the leaked phone call, she talks about which Ukrainian opposition leaders she wants to join a new government in Kiev. That could cause political problems for those leaders by giving the impression that they might be U.S. puppets.

Matlack is a Paris correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Please follow and like us:

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages


  • Twitter bans thousands of state-backed accounts spreading misinformation 16th October 2019
    Twitter has suspended thousands of accounts linked with state-backed misinformation campaigns. In a transparency report shared today, Twitter says it removed 4,248 accounts from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 273 accounts from the UAE and Egypt, 1,019 accounts based in Ecuador, 265 accounts from Spain and six accounts from Saudi Arabia. The post Twitter bans […]
  • Healthcare for UK nationals in Austria after Brexit 15th October 2019
    Skip to content Leigh Turner Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna Part of UK in Austria 15th October 2019 Vienna, Austria Healthcare for UK nationals in Austria after Brexit The UK is preparing to leave the EU on 31st October. If there is a […]

RSS Diplo Portal Belgrade

  • ОБУЧЕНИЕ В РОССИИ выставка российского высшего образования 16th October 2019
    Как стать высококлассным профессионалом и как в этом поможет российское образование? 15 октября 2019 года с 10.00 до 18.00 в Национальной Университетской Библиотеке г. Загреба (Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice 4, 10000, Zagreb) и 17 октября 2019 с 10.00 до 16.00 в Университете Риека (Trg braće Mažuranića 10, 51000, Rijeka) состоится уникальное событие, которое будет полезно всем, […]
  • The path to EU membership has many obstacles, but the goal is still valuable 16th October 2019
    European Union is valuable for all member states for two reasons: peace and prosperity, and these are also the reasons Serbia should join, said the President Emeritus of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in Belgrade. Speaking at the discussion “The EU and Serbia: Shared Destiny, a Belgian Perspective”, organised by the Belgian Embassy in […]

Catalog of Destroyed and Desecrated Churches in Kosovo ( VIDEO )

How Belgrade based diplomats use Digital Diplomacy and Internet 2016

Diplo Portal Belgrade

Please follow and like us:

Scroll Up

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)