On Dec. 30, microblogging service Twitter hosted its first governmental press conference on behalf of Israel's Defense Forces — whose microblogging tag was @IsraelConsulate.
Questions and answers were limited to 140 characters, the standard length of a Twitter message or "tweet." So even answers to the most complex questions — about which entire books have been written — had to be short and sweet, often colored with common text-messaging abbreviations.
An example (via the New York Times):
backlotops: 1 side has to stop. Why continue what hasn't worked (mass arial/grnd retaliation)? Arab Peace Initiative?
israelconsulate: we R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA + tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live.
And in response to a user that criticized the Twitter-based press conference thus: "This inverted Nuremberg Trial will not rescue your image," the Israel Consulate replied, "the point of this was to hear what ppl say and to share our POV with fellow twitters."
In addition to Twitter, the Israeli government enlisted other internet tools to advocate its point of view. It has a dedicated YouTube channel, which notably featured videos of famous monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, being obliterated — part of a campaign whose tagline poignantly reads, "How do you like it? In Sderot, people have been living like this for eight years."
It also operates several blogs spreading the message of the foreign affairs ministry.
The definition of war has changed, so public diplomacy has to change as well, explained David Saranga, head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York that conducted the news conference.
Of late, Twitter's attracted plenty of attention at the political level. A report from the US Army claimed terrorists could use the microblogging site to organize and plan attacks. The assertion was written off as paranoia at the time, but weeks later the media revealed that a recent attack on Mumbai was orchestrated in part with new technology tools.
And while Twitter was not expressly used by the terrorists, the BBC published as fact quotes from Twitter users in Mumbai without checking the veracity of their statements. The BBC's editor later issued an apology for any accidental spread of misinformation that resulted.