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US May Issue Terror Alerts On Facebook, Twitter 104

Posted by timothy
from the he-ain't-heavy-he's-my-big-brother dept.
CWmike writes "The US government may start issuing terror alerts using Facebook and Twitter, which were thrust again in the spotlight recently as lifelines in Japan. An AP report Thursday, based on a 19-page draft of the plan that the news service obtained, said DHS is working to overhaul the current color-coded terror alert system. 'The new terror alerts would ... be published online using Facebook and Twitter 'when appropriate,' the AP reports, 'but only after federal, state and local government leaders have already been notified.' Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at the Yankee Group, said the government 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.'"
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US May Issue Terror Alerts On Facebook, Twitter

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 08, 2011 @06:25PM (#35764106)
    The US Government's status was just updated to "You're all guilty of something, just wait until we catch you!"
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      The US Government's status was just updated to "You're all guilty of something, just wait until we catch you!"

      I'll tell ya what people are guilty of, travelers and airlines - letting people carry on those huge bags which take up 2 or 3 times the volume allowed. When are they going to start enforcing that little box, the one that says linear size

      Should be an alert for this sort of thing - Warning: Flight is booked with people trying to bring on suitcases disguised as carryons! Alert level: Plaid!"

      • by meerling (1487879)
        I take my absolutely can't lose stuff in carry-on for a simple reason, the time my luggage arrived 9 months and 10 days after I did.
        Whenever the check-in counter person complains about my carry-on stuff, I point out that incident and they immediately shut up.
        • by Abstrackt (609015)
          Do you actually bring so much absolutely can't lose stuff that your carry-on doesn't fit in the sizer? If that's the case, I highly recommend you take a look at onebag.com's [onebag.com] packing list.
          • by kdemetter (965669)

            I take my "absolutely can't lose stuff " in carry-on for a simple reason, the time my luggage arrived 9 months and 10 days after I did.
            Whenever the check-in counter person complains about my carry-on stuff, I point out that incident and they immediately shut up.

            Now it makes sense :-)

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        The US Government's status was just updated to "You're all guilty of something, just wait until we catch you!"

        I'll tell ya what people are guilty of, travelers and airlines - letting people carry on those huge bags which take up 2 or 3 times the volume allowed. When are they going to start enforcing that little box, the one that says linear size

        Should be an alert for this sort of thing - Warning: Flight is booked with people trying to bring on suitcases disguised as carryons! Alert level: Plaid!"

        I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as the decline and inevitable fall of Western Civilization is concerned.

    • Re:Status Update: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Friday April 08, 2011 @07:14PM (#35764354) Homepage Journal

      The problem with terror alerts is that they are vague. Recently, the US had given out a terror alert for the EU. For the whole EU. That helps a lot. Additional text: The danger is real. Might be, but what is the alert useful for other than having a scared, paranoid population?

      The danger levels of the color-coded terror alert level will never go down to low. We are supposed to be always be afraid. But here is the flaw in the logic: The danger wasn't zero before 9/11. So can we have a "no elevated danger" level when the danger is at that background level and specific alerts otherwise.

      And please, someone give those people a link to Schneiers blog. I'm sure the specialists are aware of the security issues, but somewhere between them and the notifications there is a gap of knowledge and awareness.

      • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Friday April 08, 2011 @07:28PM (#35764426)

        but what is the alert useful for other than having a scared, paranoid population?

        That is exactly what it is useful for [wikimedia.org].

      • The problem with terror alerts is that they are vague.

        They're vague because it's very difficult to convince everyone in the US to slowly give up their personal rights & freedoms if you're too specific. The beauty of the 'Boogeyman announcements' is that the Boogeyman could be right outside your window and you wouldn't even know it. And even if he isn't out there right this very moment he could be there the next time you go check.

        • by Grygus (1143095)

          The real value of being vague is that any specified threat would not scare everyone. By leaving it up to the individual, each person conjures up not just a boogeyman, but a personalized boogeyman that actually scares them as an individual. The best part about this is that the government can never act on the threat since it is actually a legion of different threats, all promoted by different segments of the populace as "the real problem." So instead of having the people say, "well if the [specified threat

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            So it's based on a 'divide and conquer' technique : keep the people afraid of each other , and they leave the government alone ( and as an added bonus , the government becomes the 'protector' of all these different people, making those people believe they cannot survive without it )

        • by BeanThere (28381)

          Other than to 'keep people scared', why not use this for something that does actually have a reasonable chance of occurring and affecting a lot of people, e.g. a tsunami alert system or something.

      • Re:Status Update: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by subreality (157447) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:17PM (#35764910)

        The problem with terror alerts is that they are vague.

        Even if they gave us more specifics, there's no associated reasonable response to them.

        They look sort of like DEFCON levels, but they're not. DEFCON levels signal that it's time for specific groups to perform certain actions. At DEFCON 4 intelligence guys are activated and base security goes up. At DEFCON 3 you're organizing the troops and starting to make active preparations for war. And so on.

        The terror alerts are useless. Let's say they give one that's pretty specific: San Jose is now at Red for this week. Does the SJPD set up inspection checkpoints for trucks? Does ATC divert all flights from SJC to SFO? Do they deploy guards to protect the reservoirs from poisoning? Are ANY specific actions indicated? If not, then all you're going to have is random fucknuts getting scared when they see a group of more than 3 of any ethnic minority.

        The dumbest display I ever saw of this was a sign at a colo data center we used indicating that we were at level Orange. They weren't doing anything differently (just the same marginally acceptable security procedures as always). But they're a security checkpoint, and terror alerts have something to do with security, so they put up a sign.

        • by avatar139 (918375)

          The problem with terror alerts is that they are vague.

          Even if they gave us more specifics, there's no associated reasonable response to them.

          They look sort of like DEFCON levels, but they're not. DEFCON levels signal that it's time for specific groups to perform certain actions. At DEFCON 4 intelligence guys are activated and base security goes up. At DEFCON 3 you're organizing the troops and starting to make active preparations for war. And so on.

          No, there is a response that goes along with the alert levels as here in the SFBay Area, BART and other publi

      • by jansifae (175417)

        We need two terror alert levels... "Go find a helmet" and "Put on the fucking helmet"....

      • by Mitreya (579078)
        Obligatory Simpsons (Kent Brockman) quote:

        The [federal] government has just issued an Orange Alert, which again means... nothing.
      • by Leebert (1694) *

        The danger levels of the color-coded terror alert level will never go down to low. We are supposed to be always be afraid. But here is the flaw in the logic: The danger wasn't zero before 9/11. So can we have a "no elevated danger" level when the danger is at that background level and specific alerts otherwise.

        Yes. The Homeland Security Advisory System (the pretty rainbow) is in the active process of being replaced with exactly such a system. See: http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/ntas.shtm [dhs.gov]

    • by blair1q (305137)

      But I don't think they were serious. The tweet linked to a goatse URL.

      • But I don't think they were serious. The tweet linked to a goatse URL.

        That wasn't 'goatse', it was an artist's interpretation of what he sees when he watches Congress on C-SPAN.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it really matters, I will hear a loud noise and turn on the radio or TV to find out what caused it.

    Local governments here already issue "shelter in place" alerts, and make reverse-911 calls for more common events, like non-terrorist related chemical spills and refinery flares.

    Terror alerts are meaningless for just about everybody. An "increased likelyhood" that somebody from Al Qaeda is going to do something in New York? What am I supposed to do with that information in San Francisco? What am I suppos

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Terror alerts are meaningless for just about everybody. An "increased likelyhood" that somebody from Al Qaeda is going to do something in New York? What am I supposed to do with that information in San Francisco? What am I supposed to do with it in New York even?

      Useless.

      At first I just rolled my eyes at this announcement. But now that you've put it in proper perspective, I understand how appropriate Twitter and Facebook is for this kind of thing.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's a solid point. Back when I was working security, the terror alerts were somewhat useful, but for most people they're mostly a way to scare people. Perhaps if people had some idea what to do with the information it might be helpful, but as it is there's little actual benefit for most people being made aware of it.

  • They can just call up and say "Boo!" in to the phone and watch the color code go up - it'll be their new little game, a terrorist version of Tetris - call it Terrotris.

  • ORANGE! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrQuacker (1938262) on Friday April 08, 2011 @06:29PM (#35764138)
    Great, so for the next ten years I can receive hourly alerts of:

    "THREAT STATUS ORANGE: Someone, Somewhere, May be planning AN ATTACK AGAINST THE USA. STAY ALERT AND REPORT ALL SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY."

  • @binladen: Oh no you di-ent! #dirtybomb #WMD
  • Did they get a chance to use green and blue yet?

    I'm starting to think that we will never see those two alert levels being used.
  • FTS:

    the government entrusting something as critical as terrorist alerts to Facebook and Twitter shows how important social networking sites have become to people's lives

    Social networks could become one of the mediums used to broadcast alerts. It's not like they're going to abandon all other methods.
    Gov Official: What are you doing the the 'Restricted Zone'?
    Citizen: What - what happened? It's horrible!
    Gov Official: Didn't you get the alert? It was all over Facebook and Twitter.
    Citizen: Facebook? Twitter? There was a huge explosion and my power went out ... and my internet ... and my cell phone!
    Gov Official: Sorry, it's not our fault you weren't properly prepar

  • by geekoid (135745)

    while I don't like them calling it terror alerts, having an emergency broadcast system is a good thing. Adding this along with radio and TV will only help.

    • by rrhal (88665)
      Does that mean you'll be first on your block to "friend" Homeland Security?
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I agree that getting the word out quickly is important in certain circumstances - but that happens automatically for all important information (and some not-so important information) these days, does it not? The media (broadly defined to including bloggers, twits, etc) have already done their job for them. If the government said there was a high probability of a terrorist attack with some specificity as to time and place, you can bet word would travel fast.

      Maybe not quite fast enough for something like

  • The US government is a terror organization. They just want to use newer technology to terrorize people. TV and Fox news is old.

  • by icebike (68054) on Friday April 08, 2011 @06:35PM (#35764190)

    Lets see, two hundred and fifty million friends and followers all running for cover the first time some 133t hakzor compromises the DHS accounts. Quick, better make Facebook/Twitter federally protected entities, so we can gitmo anyone posting or tweeting anything that might be mistaken for the US government.

    Facebook and Twitter couldn't possibly pay the advertising bill that would bring in this many new users. Now Ma and Pa Polyester HAVE to belly up to the meat market, no more ignoring Facebook/Twitter.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday April 08, 2011 @06:36PM (#35764194)

    More ways to keep regular people fearful and compliant. Yippee!

    Anybody else see the reports about the underwear bomber that came out last week? The guy bought a ticket a to Detroit because he couldn't afford the ticket to Chicago. That's the best al qaeda's got - somebody who can't even come up with an extra $100. Meanwhile, we've spent over a trillion dollars on anti-terrorism bullshit since 9-11, and that doesn't even include the opportunity costs of things like the millions of man-hours wasted taking our shoes off at the airport.

    I suppose we can expect mandatory Amber Alerts on facebook and twitter too - gotta keep those housewives terrified of strangers - nevermind the fact that practically all child molestations and abductions are committed by family and people trusted by the family (like priests, etc).

  • It might make sense to do it this way, a lot of people's mobile devices have Facebook and Twitter clients, so using them will let them pop the warnings up on a wide variety of devices.

    Probably easier and cheaper to implement than to send text messages.

  • OMG! Red Alert! RED!11!!

    LOL

    STFU noob. Im CEREAL.

  • by ChePibe (882378) on Friday April 08, 2011 @07:00PM (#35764288)

    I realize the issue here is alerts regarding terrorism, but the broader issue is the Emergency Alert System.

    If a message ever did go out on the EAS as it stands today, I'd probably never know about it. I don't have cable TV and very rarely watch any TV over the air (thank you, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon video). I don't listen to the radio unless I happen to be in the car and without my iPod. I spend far more time on Facebook on any given day than I do plugged into any medium which uses the EAS - and I really don't spend much time at all on Facebook. Reverse 911 is a step in the right direction but I frequently leave my phone on vibrate or silent in the evenings.

    While there are certainly opportunities for abuse, this is a step in the right direction. But a fairly small one.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Oh you'd know about it alright. Just going around on your day to day activities you may notice something like the neighbours packing, the streets blocked for no reason, and that kind of garbage. As soon as the alert goes anywhere above a slight yellow tinge the headlines will run with "OMG SAVE YOURSELVES". Think the opening scenes of Independence Day where Will Smith walks out to get his newspaper and sees the entire street fleeing.

      You may just be the hero we are all looking for.

    • Aye, Reverse 911 is a good step, but for those of us who don't use Twitter or Facebook, I'd think that Slashdot would be a better place to issue one. Just try not to issue one on April Fools, because that's the only day I stay away from this time suck.
  • If facebook/twitter are your "primary communication tools" you probably don't have anything important to communicate. Wait, I think I'm onto something...
  • The more noise sources that move into the social networking sphere, the easier it is for me to filter all that shit out of my existence.

  • by Baseclass (785652) on Friday April 08, 2011 @07:10PM (#35764336)
    Sounds like they're gearing up for yet another fear mongering campaign given the fact that the fear of terrorism has all but evaporated in the general populous.
  • 'That means it's a great way to get information to a massive number of people. Maybe the best.'"

    Also means it's great way to get PROPAGANDA to a massive number of people. Likely the best....

  • News for nerds, Stuff that matters.

    When they learn about smoke signals, will we get a post about that too? Probably.

  • "Grope-a-ball' up app from TSA - a game where designated agents can grope your virtual 'assets' ....
  • This has me concerned that I may someday be labeled a terrrorist because I refuse to use any social networking sites.
  • They should just send up biplanes to write the current terror alert status in the sky.

    It'd save a lot of bandwidth. And put already-paid-for biplanes into use.

  • Just another thing for a Greasemonkey script or FB Purity to block/hide from view...

    Move along... nothing to see... resume normality. :)
  • by clicking the "like" button under "CODE RED: TERRORISTS STRIKE".
  • If we were really at war, could they really survive spending months designing an alert system?
  • Great, now we can have the national Two Minute Hate.

    Just when I thought we had run out of things to emulate to a "T" in 1984, the fascist jackwads in our federal government pull something else out of their bungholes.
  • issuing a level red terror alert. 104,225 people like this.
  • Low level is plaid
    then snot green,
    baby shit yellow,
    johansson scarlett, (the rumors are flying)
    at the top... 'oh, it's paisley!'

  • Shouldn't the government be alerting people ABOUT facebook.
  • by bmo (77928) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:05PM (#35764850)

    Let me get this straight, I choose not to pay attention to these "terror" alerts because they serve absolutely no function whatsoever except to keep people afraid, and now they want to shove it in my face on the interbutt?

    Uh

    No. That particular Facebook app is getting blocked the instant it shows up. I don't care what you're trying to alert me to. Even if there's a valid threat, there is fuck-all I can do about it. I lived through the fucking cold war and EBS was just as useless. If the nukes were coming, it was just a warning that you had 15 minutes to say goodbye to everyone.

    Let's evaluate the ways "terrorists" can kill me:

    The worst that can happen now is someone can fly a plane into a building, which isn't going to happen because the passengers are going to kill the terrorists before it happens - the old rules of "be quiet, sit down, and this will all be over peacefully" are gone.

    Radiological bombs made from a bazillion fire extinguishers are a joke and a bad movie plot.

    Biological weapons are difficult and require more degrees than a thermometer factory to build the equipment.

    Chemical weapons are slightly less difficult to make, but are more likely to kill the terrorists in amusingly Darwinian displays of incompetence.

    Ordinary bombs are a dime a dozen and they only do localized damage, and with everyone watching purchases of Ammonium Nitrate, another Oklahoma City is not going to happen.

    "Poisoning the water supply" does not meaning throwing a bag of chemicals in a reservoir. It requires driving tanker trucks up to water treatment plants, hooking them up, and doing the dirty deed. It's ridiculously infeasible. This will also last about 10 seconds before someone calls 911.

    And all this to be successful requires people competent enough to pull it off. As we have seen, the vast majority of suicidal terrorists are pretty dumb. This is because anyone remotely intelligent says to his/her "commander" "you want me to do what?"

    Now listen to me, you benighted mockers! We're going to teach you soldiering, The world's noblest profession! When we're done with you, you'll be able to stand up and slaughter your foes like civilized men! But first, you will have to learn to march in step. And do the manual of arms without even having to think! Good soldiers don't think, they just obey! Do you suppose that if a man thought twice, he'd give his life for Queen and Country? Not bloody likely! He wouldn't go near the battlefield! One look at your foolish faces tells me that you're going to be crack troops. Ohhh him there with the five-and-a-half hat size has the makings of a bloody hero!

    - Daniel Dravot

    End rant.

    Why the rant: Because the TSA is tits-on-a-bull useless and we've got idiots in the House who want to tie dozens of wedge issues to the fucking budget which don't even come close to trimming it and are thus shutting down the government through invented controversy. Fuck you guys. Fuck you.

    --
    BMO

  • I understand they have one obstacle left...

    How to hide the resulting concrete numbers about how many people actually give a rats ass about them or their terror alerts.

    -- Terry

  • At all times must Citizens be afraid.

  • It makes no sense to have a color-coded terror alert system when after naming a color, you then have to explain what the color means.

    Just use a 10 point scale, and if it hits 7, shut down the airports. If it hits 9, we are actually in progress of having major cities under attack. Not complicated, not difficult to understand, doesn't help terrorists to know what it is.

  • I posted something like this before. My question is, "is twitter and FB becoming critical choke points due to the amount of important information they are now carrying?"

    Let's look at it. They are used not only for personal information but also by commerce, government, political parties, activist groups, whistle blowers, and now for national defense.

    What happens if this reliance increases and they are attacked. Would it harm the economy, influence elections, and compromise national defense? And can we trust

  • Given they have to notify all the federal, state and local authorities before FB and Tweety, I guess that means we'll get the news several days after the event.

    -------

    Threat levels are always orange, even on Pandora
  • Why doesn't the government simply get the major United States ISPs to redirect to a special warning site? That way, it would work for anyone not using Facebook.

    • by UBfusion (1303959)

      While your idea looks interesting, in fact it's the equivalent of an internet kill switch: Imagine you are browsing a news site and all of a sudden you get redirected to a warning site. All alternatives you might try to find more information about the "threat" would also redirect to the same warning site, so in effect you'd be blind and receiving information/updates only at a need-to-know basis. Would you like that?

  • They should really tell us geeks first. After all, the administration wants folks to get interested in math, science, and engineering. And who better to rebuild a society but those with the brains.
  • What about identi.ca ?

    Don't geeks deserve to notified of tsunamis?

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