Twitter Launches Emergency Alert System
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Twitter Launches Emergency Alert System

(Image source: Twitter / @fema) BY STEVEN SPARKMAN In another move aimed at making itself indispensable,
Twitter rolled out a new service Wednesday that just might save your life. Twitter Alerts is a new way to get important
information in a crisis by sending users push notifications and text messages from places
like local police and fire departments, FEMA or the Red Cross. To opt into the program, users can go to Twitter’s
list of participating organizations and pick the ones they want to get alerts from. So if there’s a weather event, an Amber Alert,
a terrorist threat or a natural disaster, authorities can send vital information to
anyone following their alerts, like telling them where to find shelter or clean water. Tech writers say this is a natural move for
Twitter because it dovetails nicely with how people already use the social network. “For
better or worse, people turn to Twitter during times of crisis to find out information.”
(Via TechCrunch, TechHive) That was certainly true during Superstorm
Sandy last year, and again during the Boston bombing manhunt back in April. Authorities
told people to use Twitter to get their information so phone lines would be clear for emergency
use. (Via The Weather Channel, CNN) And this isn’t a new idea for Twitter: It
already experimented with a service available in Japan called Lifeline, which was set up
as a response to the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in 2011. (Via Twitter,
ITN) And if you’re worried about alerts constantly
blowing up your phone, well, Twitter already thought of that. There are strict guidelines
for what counts as an alert, and only a select few accounts can send them. Plus, The Verge notes Twitter also thought
about the string of high-profile account hackings in recent months: “Attempting to head off
mass alerts by the Syrian Electronic Army, Twitter is also requiring any participating
organization to ‘increase the security’ of its … account before using the system.” This isn’t just a public service for the social
media giant. Twitter recently filed for an initial public offering — the most anxiously-awaited
IPO since Facebook — so it makes sense to get as many people using the service as possible.

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