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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

Oct 16, 2020 - World

Trump's hopes of pre-election nuclear deal with Russia fade

No handshake this time around. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement on Friday that Vladimir Putin's position for the extension the New START treaty was a "non-starter" — effectively confirming that hopes of a pre-election nuclear deal had been dashed.

Between the lines: Just a few days ago, senior administration officials were expressing confidence that a deal was close, or even agreed in principle. But senior Russian officials, including Putin, have since indicated that they see little chance of a complex deal on such an expedited timetable.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.