Social media is largely a very predominant part of our society – more so that people get on the platforms to share their thoughts and views. Twitter is one of the most “elite” platform used by the “Twitterati”. But just because Twitter is full of wits, jibes and sneering mocks doesn’t mean that these comments cannot have extreme consequences. The results are publicized in a study by Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London which showcase how government officials and administrative agencies are using Twitter in times of global crisis and the implications reckless use of platform can have on the already strained geopolitical conflicts.
Dr. Heather Williams and Dr. Alexi Drew authored a report called “Escalation by Tweet: Managing the New Nuclear Diplomacy”. The report says, “tweets from government officials may help shape the American public narrative and provide greater insights into US decision-making”. They also say that this is provocative at times leading to confusion, chaotic diplomatic messages and thereby escalating global tensions which are already on verge of explosion.
🔵⚪️A new report by the @KCL_CSSS’s @heatherwilly @CyberAlexi and @LawDavF discusses the impact of Twitter on crisis escalation, including nuclear escalation. @KCLSecurity #EUNPDC— EU Non-Proliferation (@EU_NonProlif) July 27, 2020
Back in 2018, US President Donald Trump took on to Twitter and wrote something on his official account that created quite a stress, much to disbelief of diplomatic experts globally. He had tweeted, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works.”
But to say that it’s just Trump who is regular on Twitter to fire controversial tweets wouldn’t be fair. Many world leaders make the platform a resource to write proverbial statements in a tweet limited by 280 characters. In January 2020, for instance, at the tine of ongoing US-Iran crisis, Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, shared an image on Twitter that had face of Donald Trump marked with a red handprint, as if he had been slapped. A strong tweet that can attract conflicts, experts said.
The fact that Twitter has no provision of filtering out blunt, unmediated comments, makes it the most non-ideal platform to be used for sharing of the diplomatic messages. United States is the largest user country of Twitter with over 59.35 million American users, the US citizens and people from political and diplomatic decision-making background are most susceptible to nuisances caused by disinformation shared on Twitter. This very fact can be advantageous to people and countries adversary to the US.
The ability to use Twitter as potentially spreading disinformation or for amplifying misunderstandings and miscommunications is especially increased exponentially when taken into account the acute imperfections which were projected last week when various influential Titter accounts were hacked. When accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and many other notable personalities were hacked on July 15 as a cryptocurrency scam. The fact that many direct and personal messages too were hacked, poses a serious speculation of incoming threat or consequence. This also raises a question that can hackers also target accounts world leaders and officials and fuel a civil unrest or threaten a nuclear war over a series of provocative tweets? While the hacking of Twitter accounts raise alarm of Twitter takeover as the worst-case scenario, it is very much possible according to experts. After the incident journalist Casey Newton wrote an analysis “makes you wonder what contingencies the company has put into place in the event that it is someday taken over not by greedy Bitcoin con artists, but state-level actors or psychopaths. After today it is no longer unthinkable, if it ever truly was, that someone take over the account of a world leader and attempt to start a nuclear war.” But more than this, the more realistic and omnipresent threat to geopolitical peace and stability is the use of social media by raged and ill-tempered leaders and officials who in their haste and aggression can instigate violent conflicts that can be irreparable.