How Civil Wars Start: political study argues social media is the spark that lights the fuse

Barbara F Walter’s book suffers from too loose a definition of what civil war is and too tight a focus on US-based solutions

Huthi rebel fighters inspect the damage after an air strike in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. By 2019, more civil wars were raging than at any other time in modern history. Picture: Getty

Since the arrival of social media, democracy across the world has been in retreat. This isn’t a coincidence. When online platforms amplify ethnic, social and religious divisions, the American political scientist Barbara F Walter’s new book argues, they become the “perfect accelerant for the conditions that lead to civil war”.

During the 20th century, military generals staged coups in democratic countries to impose authoritarian rule. Today, however, populists like Donald Trump use the internet to ...