The War is Just a Click Away

An OpenCanada / OpenGlobal series on the intersection of cyber security and conflict.

Illustration by Kevin Tong / OpenCanada.org

People who live far from war may remain connected to it continuously, intimately and sometimes dangerously, through their digital devices. For much of humanity, we can now say that war is just a click away.

These digital connections to conflict are double-edged. Activists can provide assistance and coordinate with people in the midst of conflict, but their communications may be intercepted and their colleagues captured, tortured or killed. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can alert larger publics to human rights violations, but they have also become theatres of war where fighters are recruited, and where violence is stoked through misinformation and ethnic or religious hatred. Digital tools have been developed to help humanitarians identify and assist vulnerable people more quickly than ever before, but can also be used to transfer resources to the groups responsible for violence.

This series, The War is Just a Click Away, will explore the risks and possible responses to these digital connections to war.

Contributions to this series will be rolled out over the next two weeks. They will include Naheed Mustafa’s in-depth feature on people living in the digital shadows of the Syrian war; an expert debate on what the Syrian conflict reveals about innovation in cyber conflict; tips for digital safety when communicating with people at risk; an analysis of the politics of social media depictions of Syrian refugees by Alexandra Siegel and Chris Tenove; and recommendations from a panel of scholars, activists and hackers on how to address the worldwide problem of digital attacks on civil society.

The series was developed and edited by Chris Tenove as part of the OpenGlobal Project. The OpenGlobal Project, led by Taylor Owen and Chris Tenove, explores new ways to promote public and expert debate on urgent issues of global affairs. It is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, the Liu Institute for Global Issues, and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

For their extensive contributions to this project, we would like to thank researchers Andrés Delgado, Robert Gorwa and John Woodside, as well as the OpenCanada team.

In the series

Digital war

Life in the digital shadow of the Syrian war

Even when the Syrian conflict is on the other side of the planet, digital connections put refugees, activists and humanitarians at risk. 

Migrant on cellphone

Five things you should do to stay safe online

From what to do if you've been hacked, to the secure messaging apps you can use, here are the best tips to ensure your own digital security.

Free Syrian Army

Who is winning the Syrian digital war?

Whether humanitarians or jihadist groups, who is finding "success" online? We ask five experts for their insights.

Twitter

What social media posts tell us about the politics of the refugee crisis

Analysis of more than one million Twitter posts reveals the political maneuvering in portrayals of Syrian refugees, and the global pivot on the issue triggered by the image of Alan Kurdi in 2015. 

YemenPhone

Digital connections relay news from the war in Yemen. But calls to family bring home the humanity

Canadian writer Kamal Al-Solaylee shares the personal, complex questions he faces as a member of a ‘digital community of Yemen watchers.’

digital activist

With authoritarianism and state surveillance on the rise, how can civil society be protected from digital threats?

Cyber-security experts, hackers and civil society advocates recommend six ways to push back against global digital threats to civil society.