Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new report outlines how miscalculations and misinformation on Twitter could lead to global war.

Why it matters: Social media platforms like Twitter have vastly accelerated the pace of communication. Without restraints, it's far too easy to imagine how errant tweets could cause international disputes to escalate out of control.

Driving the news: A huge Twitter hack on Wednesday led to the hijacking of authenticated accounts from major figures like Joe Biden and Barack Obama, exposing the vulnerability of a platform that has grown to become a vital platform for real-time information.

What's happening: In a new report coincidentally released the same day as the hack, researchers at King's College London's Centre for Science and Security Studies explored what would happen if those vulnerabilities were exploited on the international level.

  • The "speed, informality and openness" that makes Twitter unique as a communications platform also makes it particularly ripe for misunderstandings.
  • That's a minor issue if the misunderstanding is, say, a feud between two celebrities.
  • It's a much bigger deal if the misunderstanding is between two nuclear-armed nation-states.

Of note: In a 2018 novel, the arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis crafted a fictional scenario where a tweet by President Trump is misinterpreted by Kim Jong-un as a declaration of war, leading the North Korean leader to preemptively launch nuclear missiles at the U.S.

What to watch: The report's authors recommend that the Department of Defense organize an interagency effort to develop best practices for social media use and encourage leaders to refrain from tweeting during crises.

My thought bubble: Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston has a simple Twitter policy: "Delete your account." We might be safer if more people followed it.

Go deeper: Twitter hack presages a bumpy election

Go deeper

Aug 6, 2020 - World

How the world's nuclear stockpiles have shifted since Hiroshima

Data: Federation of American Scientists; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are roughly 13,355 nuclear weapons in the world, with 91% of them belonging to Russia (6,370) or the U.S. (5,800), according to estimates from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

What to watch: China’s stockpile of around 290 warheads is “likely to grow further over the next decade” and put it firmly in the third spot among the world’s nuclear powers, according to analysts Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 20,755,406 — Total deaths: 752,225— Total recoveries: 12,917,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 5,246,760 — Total deaths: 167,052 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine projectMcConnell announces Senate will not hold votes until Sept. 8 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. 2020: Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandateBiden and Harris to receive coronavirus briefings 4 times a week.
  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
  6. Business: Why the CARES Act makes 2020 the best year for companies to lose money.
  7. Public health: Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments Cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable.

Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.