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Some Chinese social media users

accused the embassy of waging a “public

opinion war,” but Weber insisted that it

was a standard exercise in public diplo-

macy and outreach by the embassy.

But how useful are these online

efforts? According to Shaun Riordan,

a British senior visiting fellow at the

Netherlands Institute of International

Relations, foreign ministries and embas-

sies seem to have become obsessed with

having a social media presence for its

own sake.

But simply being online is not

enough anymore, Riordan writes in a

USC Center for Public Diplomacy blog post. Social media should be used to

advance national objectives—not alone,

but as one of many digital tools available

to today’s diplomats, he says.

Riordan adds that engaging in social

media is resource-intensive. So, both in

terms of time and people, it is essential

for diplomats to get all that they can

from their chosen channels.

Social media can be used to gather

information, gauge public opinion and

even communicate warnings. Riordan

believes that, combined with data min-

ing, it can be used to provide real-time

information about attacks, natural

disasters and political crises. But while

diplomats are making sure that their

Twitter and Instagram feeds are up to

date, Riordan argues, they should also

be making use of other digital tools—

online platforms and computer “games”

that can be used to simulate crises and

try out contingency plans.

These tools can help diplomats, states

and non-state actors to come together

to shape key global debates, Riordan

concludes—but only if they can escape

the obsession with social media.

—Gemma Dvorak,

Associate Editor

Senate Picks Up

Pace on Confirmations

and Promotions


he speed of confirmations and pro-

motions during the past year or so has

steadily been returning to the timeframe

that was more common in the 2000s—

approximately two to three months.

Those who follow AFSA’s work on

ambassadorial nominees and Foreign

Service promotion lists will remember

that in the last few years, the pace of con-

firmation had slowed to a crawl.

At one point, more than 1,800 names

on Foreign Service promotion and tenure

lists sat unconfirmed for more than a year.

AFSA worked to break that logjam and

implement new procedures.

On May 17, the Senate confirmed the

nominations of eight members of the

career Foreign Service: Robert Annan

Riley III as ambassador to Micronesia,

Karen Brevard Stewart as ambassador to

the Marshall Islands, Adam Sterling as

ambassador to the Slovak Republic, Kelly

Keiderling-Franz as ambassador to Uru-

guay, Stephen M. Schwartz as ambassador

to Somalia, Christine Ann Elder as ambas-

sador to Liberia and Elizabeth Holzhall

Richard as ambassador to Lebanon.

Each of these new ambassadors is a

career Foreign Service officer. The Sen-

ate also confirmed career FSOMatthew

John Matthews as Asia-Pacific Economic

Cooperation Senior Official.

The following day, the Senate con-

firmed more than 300 promotions and

tenures on Foreign Service lists from four

agencies: the Department of State, U.S.

Agency for International Development,

Foreign Commercial Service and Animal

and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Those lists had been submitted to the

Senate only a few weeks previously. AFSA

congratulates all those who have been

confirmed in recent weeks.