De-escalating global tensions could be as simple as encouraging global leaders to stop tweeting, a new study from the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London has found.
The study Escalation by Tweet: Managing the new nuclear diplomacy looks at how government officials use Twitter during global conflicts.
Namely, it looks at whether the use of Twitter by government officials provides greater insight and transparency into decision making, or whether it creates further confusion.
“Based on this analysis, we find that social media has the potential to be a disruptive technology and exacerbate tensions during crises,” the study says.
The study recommends that leaders and officials should be encouraged to refrain from tweeting during a crisis and use traditional channels like press releases and official statements instead.
This is in part due to the fact Twitter’s 280-character limit does not allow much space for leaders to place the necessary care and consideration required when dealing with such sensitive situations.
The study points out that press releases and official statements can be shared via Twitter.
Although Twitter can play host to inflammatory comments – demonstrated by US President Donald Trump in recent years – the study finds Twitter on its own is unlikely to start a crisis.
However, it could make things worse during an existing crisis.
“There is a risk, however, that tweets can enable or accelerate an ongoing crisis, and that American audiences will be disproportionately at risk to manipulation because of their asymmetric use of Twitter,” finds the report.
With this being the case, the study suggests mitigation practices are the best solution for ensuring Twitter does not escalate a volatile situation.
“Much of the work for mitigating the escalatory effects of a tweet is required before a crisis begins, such as
developing interagency best practices and a plan to coordinate tweets during a crisis,” continues the study.
The paper also implores Twitter as a company to identify disinformation campaigns and risks.
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