A verified Twitter account known as “DEFCON Warning System” stirred fear online after claiming to receive information about “nuclear movement in Russia.” But the account isn’t affiliated with any actual government and provided no evidence regarding the claim.
“We are currently evaluating rumours of nuclear movement in Russia,” the account tweeted on Wednesday. “Please remember that these are rumours only with no verification at the moment.”
The tweet, which has already been viewed more than 772,000 times, led to concern among some users across the platform. One even responded with steps that he claimed others should take in the event of a nuclear blast.
“Don’t look at the flash, get & stay inside for 2 weeks, take a cold shower no more than 1hr after the blast with no shampoo conditioner or soap, remember you’re trying to rinse dust not damage skin, get batteries & a radio, & hope to God you have water & food enough for 2 weeks,” the user said.
Yet DEFCON Warning System, as stated in the group’s bio, purports itself to be a “private intelligence organization.” A disclaimer on the group’s website also notes that “it is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch.”
“The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning,” the disclaimer says.
Blog posts on the website largely relate to geopolitics, with the exception of one such writeup titled “5 things Jesus never said,” a repost of an opinion piece authored by a pastor on Fox News.
While some were concerned with the group’s warnings, others, most notably nuclear weapons experts, were quick to condemn the group. Hans Kristensen, the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, accused DEFCON Warning System of needlessly promoting vague rumors.
“Then don’t amplify the rumors by saying you’re investigating something that hasn’t been confirmed!!” he said in response.
The Daily Dot reached out to the organization over Twitter DM to inquire about the tweet but did not receive a reply.
But even if the claims are true, the movement of nuclear weapons is hardly cause for concern. Speaking with the Daily Dot, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, noted that nuclear weapons are regularly being moved.
“Russia and the United States ‘move’ nuclear weapons constantly,” he said. “It would be news if they stopped.”
Questions have also been raised over the account’s verification, which was obtained through a paid subscription to Twitter Blue, given that several government agencies in the nuclear sphere are not.
“A blue check account w/a history of sensationalist nonsense is tweeting nuclear alarmism,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with Citizen Lab. “Meanwhile, the real North American Aerospace Defense Command* isn’t verified.”
The Daily Dot also reached out to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, widely known as NORAD, to ask about the verified account but did not receive a reply by press time.
The account is just one example of many where Twitter’s new verification process under Elon Musk has been used to stir up fear and confusion.