Social networking software

U.S. May Spread Terror Alerts on Facebook, Twitter

The U.S. government may start issuing terror alerts using Facebook and Twitter , according to a news service report.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to overhaul the current color-coded terror alert system. The new system, according to the report, would have only two levels of alerts -- elevated and imminent.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Those alerts would be relayed to the public, in part, via social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

The AP article is based on a 19-page draft of the plan that the news service obtained.

"The new terror alerts would also be published online using Facebook and Twitter 'when appropriate,' " AP said, "but only after federal, state and local government leaders have already been notified," the news agency reported.

The new system is expected to be in place by April 27.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at the Yankee Group, said the fact that the U.S. government is entrusting something as critical as terrorist alerts to Facebook and Twitter shows how important social networking sites have become to people's lives.

"There are hundreds of millions of people using Facebook and Twitter. For many of them, it's their primary communication tool," Kerravala said. "That means it's a great way to get information to a massive number of people. Maybe the best."

Social networking, he added, will soon eclipse other, more traditional, means of communication.

"Within five years, social networking will be what email is today," he said. "I see the phone, email, faxes, etc. as older generation tools."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feedsgaudin@computerworld.com. Her e-mail address is sharon_gaudin@computerworld.com.

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