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News / Asia Pacific / Citizen Engagement

US plans to use social media in new terrorism alert system

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is planning a new system for terror alerts and will use Facebook and Twitter to help warn citizens.

31/05/2011

The original color-coded warning system, used in counterterrorism since 9/11, will be replaced by more specific alerts with only two levels: "elevated" and "imminent."

The warnings will be shared with the public on Facebook and Twitter "when appropriate" to help ensure as many people as possible are notified. The amount of information Homeland Security will share is unclear, as a balance between protecting Americans and preventing terrorists from knowing their plans have been uncovered would need to be established.

According to the draft plan, an "elevated" alert would warn of a credible threat against the U.S. but wouldn't specify targets. These alerts would last 30 days or less and encourage people to be vigilant about suspicious activity until the alert is removed.

An "imminent" alert would warn about a credible, specific and impending terrorist threat or an on-going attack against the U.S. That alert would expire after no more than seven days but could be extended.

According to The Associated Press, terror warnings could be withheld entirely from the public if announcing the threat would expose an investigation or intelligence operation. The Homeland Security secretary would make the final decision on whether to issue an alert and to whom -- sometimes just to law enforcement and other times to the public.

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