Mike Isaac

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Twitter Debuts Emergency Alerts Service

Here’s another use case for Twitter, the social network that wants to be everywhere: Emergency service aid.

The company on Wednesday unveiled its Alerts service, a way for agencies to deliver “accurate information from credible organizations” during times of crisis. Examples of some of the first partners are those you’d expect: Fire departments, police stations, even government service agencies up to and including the state level.

The implementation is simple. Only authorized, authoritative agencies are allowed to use the service, and are recommended to do so only in times of urgency or immediate crisis. A natural disaster, for instance, could see local agencies directing citizens toward clean water and other resources.

When the agency sends out an alert tweet, it will be received only by those who have signed up to get them from that particular outlet. In the timeline, they’ll be marked by a little orange “alert” bell instead of looking like every other tweet.

This isn’t Twitter’s first time experimenting with emergency services on its platform. Just over a year ago, the company launched Lifeline in Japan, which offered a similar alerts system in the wake of the massive quakes that hit Fukushima in 2011.

It’s an impressive and likely helpful use of the service, especially considering how often Twitter is looked to by mainstream media outlets in times of crisis, when disinformation spreads almost instantaneously.

Interestingly enough, it seems to mimic a service offered by Nextdoor, the locally focused social network that restricts communication between users by neighborhoods. Nextdoor has pitched itself to government agencies at state and local levels, offering agencies the ability to broadcast messages targeted to specific areas. So, while Twitter’s alerts will reach only those who sign up for each particular organization, Nextdoor’s alerts aim to reach those who would benefit from them without having to sign up.

Here’s a list of those participating in Twitter’s new Alerts system, which the company plans to expand with more agencies. Currently the service is only being offered in the U.S., Japan and Korea, but Twitter plans to expand to more countries in time.

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