Twitter starts alerts site for governments, law enforcement, emergency services


Twitter has launched a new alert system, for some organizations. The logo of social networking website 'Twitter' is displayed on a computer screen in London in this September 11, 2013. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
September 25, 2013

Twitter has become an importance resource for updates on what’s happening during crisis situations, and the company is now trying to make it easier for officials to share critical information when it matters most.

The company’s alerts site went live Tuesday and is available to government organizations at all levels — local, national and international — as well as some national agencies and organizations such as the World Health Organization or American Red Cross, which have been active on the network in past crises.

Users who have signed up for the alerts from those accounts will receive push notifications or text messages on their phones. Alert messages will have a different look in users’ Twitter streams.

The alerts, Twitter said, are meant for “crisis, disaster and emergency communications” that those enrolled in the program want to send to Twitter followers. Examples include natural disasters and severe weather, explosions, food or agricultural incidents and terrorism incidents, the network said.

Organizations must apply for participation in the program, Twitter said. Once approved, they must increase the security on their Twitter accounts, presumably to discourage hackers from being able to spam users’ phones.

Right now, organizations will only be able to send a limited number of alerts every hour, though they may continue to send normal tweets as usual, Twitter said.

The Twitter alerts differ from the emergency weather and AMBER alert messages that users can already opt to receive on their phones. Those alerts are issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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