In a milestone that marks Twitter's evolution from a tool for self-obsessed 20-somethings into a vital part of our nation's telecommunications infrastructure, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced it is adding the microblogging service to the national emergency response network.
Beginning next January, individuals in distress will be able to send @replies or “direct messages” to @t911help. Root servers at Twitter co-location facilities will use IP addresses and geolocation databases to route messages to the first responders closest to the sender's physical address.
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“Twitter is not just about what you had for lunch any more,” said a FEMA spokesperson. “It's about choking on what you had for lunch and being able to call for help -- even when you can no longer speak.”
Saying he was both “honored and humbled” by the FEMA announcement, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said the company is currently building out its server capacity to meet the increased demand. He vowed to hunt the “fail whale” -- the white cetacean that appears when Twitter is overwhelmed with traffic -- into extinction.
In related news, Democratic members of the House of Representatives have introduced a bill designed to ensure the accuracy of the service following complaints from their constituents about misleading messages posted to the site. The bill, titled the Twitter Integrity and Truth Act (TWITA), would lodge penalties of up to $500 per tweet for users who deliberately post false or libelous information on the service.
“With more politicians using Twitter, and more people relying on it for instant news updates, we wanted to provide incentives for people to use it responsibly,” said a spokesperson for Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-sponsor of the bill. “We don't need more twits messing with our tweets.”
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This story, "Twitter to Become an Emergency Response Tool" was originally published by InfoWorld.