Three Tweets to Midnight: Effects of the Global Information Ecosystem on the Risk of Nuclear Conflict

edited by Harold A. Trinkunas, Herbert Lin, Benjamin Loehrke
Sunday, March 15, 2020

Disinformation and misinformation have always been part of conflict. But as the essays in this volume outline, the rise of social media and the new global information ecosystem have created conditions for the spread of propaganda like never before—with potentially disastrous results.

In our “post-truth” era of bots, trolls and intemperate presidential tweets, popular social platforms like Twitter and Facebook provide a growing medium for manipulation of information directed to individuals, institutions, and global leaders. A new type of warfare is being fought online each day, often in 280 characters or fewer. Targeted influence campaigns have been waged in at least forty-eight countries so far. We’ve entered an age where stability during an international crisis can be deliberately manipulated at greater speed, on a larger scale, and at a lower cost than at any previous time in history.

This volume examines the current reality from a variety of angles, considering how digital misinformation might affect the likelihood of international conflict and how it might influence the perceptions and actions of leaders and their publics before and during a crisis. It sounds the alarm about how social media increases information overload and promotes “fast thinking,” with potentially catastrophic results for nuclear powers.


Kelly M. Greenhill, Danielle Jablanski, Jaclyn A. Kerr, Mark Kumleben, Jeffrey Lewis, Herbert S. Lin, Benjamin Loehrke, Rose McDermott, Ben O’Loughlin, Paul Slovic, Kate Starbird, Harold A. Trinkunas, Kristin Ven Bruusgaard, Samuel C. Woolley

Download PDFs of individual chapters below.


Front Matter

Chapter 1: Retweets to Midnight: Assessing the Effects of the Information Ecosystem on Crisis Decision Making between Nuclear Weapons States by Danielle Jablanski, Herbert S. Lin, and Harold A. Trinkunas

Chapter 2: Psychological Underpinnings of Post-truth in Political Beliefs
by Rose McDermott

Chapter 3: The Caveman and the Bomb in the Digital Age
by Paul Slovic and Herbert S. Lin

Chapter 4: Gaming Communication on the Global Stage: Social Media Disinformation in Crisis Situations
by Mark Kumleben and Samuel C. Woolley

Chapter 5: Information Operations and Online Activism within NATO Discourse
by Kate Starbird

Chapter 6: Of Wars and Rumors of Wars: Extra-factual Information and (In)Advertent Escalation
by Kelly M. Greenhill

Chapter 7: Crisis Stability and the Impact of the Information Ecosystem
by Kristin Ven Bruusgaard and Jaclyn A. Kerr

Chapter 8: Bum Dope, Blowback, and the Bomb: The Effect of Bad Information on Policy-Maker Beliefs and Crisis Stability
by Jeffrey Lewis

Chapter 9: The Impact of the Information Ecosystem on Public Opinion during Nuclear Crises: Lifting the Lid on the Role of Identity Narratives
by Ben O’Loughlin

Chapter 10: What Can Be Done to Minimize the Effects of the Global Information Ecosystem on the Risk of Nuclear War?
by Harold A. Trinkunas, Herbert S. Lin, and Benjamin Loehrke

About the Editors and Contributors


About the Editors

Harold Trinkunas is the deputy director of and a senior research scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

Herbert S. Lin is a senior research scholar for cyberpolicy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Benjamin Loehrke is the program officer for nuclear policy at the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

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