The Washington Post

Diplomats on Twitter: Putin follows no one

The majority of world leaders have joined Twitter, but most don’t send their own tweets or converse with each other on the microblogging service, according to a new study by the PR firm Burson-Marsteller.


English appears to be the lingua franca of the microblogging service, with English favored by 90 of the accounts, Spanish for 41 accounts, French for 25 accounts and Arabic for17, the AP reported.

The United States also has the most socially-networked head of state -- perhaps because Twitter was invented here. @BarackObama has 17.8 million followers, but he rarely tweets for himself. Obama mutually follows only Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Diplomatic tweets come in a variety of tones. Medvedev tweets in English, largely about banal day-to-day affairs, with plenty of Instagram photos thrown in:

Yesterday’s informal meeting with government members to discuss current

— Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussiaE) July 1, 2012

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez began tweeting in 2010 and posts mainly exclamations.

Miren este video!! Chávez es un Pueblo!! Chávez somos millones!! Tú también eres Chávez!!

— Hugo Chávez Frías (@chavezcandanga) July 12, 2012

“Watch this video! Chavez is the people! Chavez is millions! You are also Chavez!”

Although most diplomats tweet with caution, they haven’t avoided gaffes entirely.

French President Francois Hollande hasn’t tweeted since May 15, the day of his swearing-in ceremony. Later, his first lady, Valérie Trierweiler, sparked controversy when she tweeted against candidate Segolene Royal, Hollande’s ex, in a legislative election.

Twitter has been used to retaliate for real-life gaffes, as well:

When Obama said “Polish death camp” rather than “Nazi death camp”at a ceremony for Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski, Polish foreign affairs minister Radek Sikorski tweeted, “The White House will apologize for this outrageous error.”

The study found that the most retweeted message by a world leader was a May 9 tweet in which Obama said, “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” which was forwarded more than 62,000 times.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mis-translated a word in Chavez’ tweet. It has been updated to reflect the correction.

More world news coverage:

- In Pakistan, stalled military operation means refugees can’t go home

- DOJ trains lawyers on cyber espionage

- Senate committee approves provision to plug intelligence leaks

- Read more headlines from around the world


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