Escalation by Tweet: Managing the new nuclear diplomacy

by Dr. Heather Williams

“Social media has quickly become part of the geopolitical landscape, and international leaders and officials are increasingly taking to Twitter during crises. For US decision-makers, however, Twitter presents a bit of a paradox: on the one hand, tweets from government officials may help shape the American public narrative and provide greater insights into US decision-making to reduce misperception by foreign actors. On the other hand, tweets may increase misperception and sow confusion during crises, creating escalation incentives for an adversary. To reconcile this paradox, we examine the use of Twitter by international leaders during crises in recent years, some of which involved nuclear-armed states. In so doing, we explore the changing nature of escalation, which now resembles a complex web more than a ladder, and examine specific escalation pathways involving social media.”

Read the full report co-authored by Dr. Heather Williams and Dr. Alexi Drew, originally published July, 2020, by King’s College London, here.

Dr. Heather Williams

Dr. Heather Williams

Dr. Heather Williams is a Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department and Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King's College London. She is also an adjunct Research Staff...
Download PDF