08.06.2011 - UNESCOPRESS

Social Media is here to stay

© UNESCO/Ania Freindorf - Shashi Tharoor at UNESCO

“There is no doubt that social media gave more impetus to the Arab Spring,” Shashi Tharoor said during his lecture on Communication and Social Media in a Changing Global Landscape, held at UNESCO in Paris today. Shashi Tharoor, who is a Member of Parliament in India and a former Under-Secretary-General of the UN, underlined the increasing significance of social media in democratization, disaster management and public diplomacy.

Dr Tharoor was the first Indian politician to use Twitter in a professional context and now has over a million followers. “Social media has become a vital tool in my country’s public diplomacy,”  Mr Tharoor said.  Referring to the recent uprisings in various Arab countries, he warned that social media has the potential to undermine the credibility of governments. However he also underlined its potential to bring about increased transparency in societies affected by corruption.

The role of social media in disaster situations was examined at length by Dr Tharoor, who cited examples from Haiti and Japan: “Social Media allows a two-way conversation in disaster situations, we saw this in the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan when Google launched a Japanese-language version of its Person Finder tool.

”Foreign affairs are also being shaped in part by the development of social media according to Dr Tharoor: “When President Obama visited Ghana shortly after being elected, his trip was communicated by the White House. President Obama received over 250,000 questions from Africans across the continent via Facebook and Twitter.

”Dr Tharoor is adamant that social media will play an ever more important role in international affairs in the coming years: “Social Media is here to stay, we have to live with it. So let’s make the most of it.”

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