back to article US gov mulls issuing terrorist warnings on Twitter, Facebook

The US government may soon issue terrorism alerts over Twitter and Facebook in certain circumstances. According to the Associated Press, which recently obtained a 19-page confidential plan from the Department of Homeland Security, terrorism alerts would be published over the two sites “when appropriate.” The alerts would go …


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  1. Stephen Channell

    like duh!

    In days of old when knights were bold… they’d bang church bells liked ruddy hell: not as an endorsement of the established religion, but to let as many people as possible know as quickly possible that the Vikings were coming.

    I’m sure it is legitimate for civil servant to debate the merits (& cost) of a system for flash SMS warnings.. but facebook; twitter; the MS version; the Google version are all FREE! Sending twitter messages in the event of terrorism is just the same as ringing church bells.. it's like duh.

    1. Ole Juul

      This is a bit different

      In this case the "ringing of the church bells" might actually be as an endorsement of the established religion. At any rate, it does seem like a good way to promote an environment of paranoia.

    2. Far Canal

      I thought ...

      it went something like this - In days of old when Knights were bold and women weren't invented, the Knights drilled hole in telephone poles and went around contented.

      I'm sure there's a knotty problem joke here somewhere.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I can only imagine how they will phrase these warnings


    "Al Qaeda are coming!!!!!!!! lulz"


    "We are expecting a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda"

    "Abdul likes this."

    1. Jimbo 6

      <Title> ? </Title>

      "Los Angeles is about to be wiped off the face of the planet."

      "5 billion people like this."

  3. Christoph


    How stupid can they get? They've actually announced they intend to do this?

    Talk about going down on their knees and begging people to race to see who can be the first to crack the system and issue a fake alert.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in the future ?

    When twitbook (TM) is yesterdays thing, where next ? Still, it's cheaper than sorting your own infrastructure.Not a twitbook drone and not a merkin so im unlikely to be affected by this stupidty.

  5. ratfox
    Thumb Up


    Considering a government alternative would likely be, if not necessarily very expensive, certainly more expensive... And would likely reach less people.

    Then again...

  6. Anomalous Cowturd

    So how does this work exactly?

    #TerrorAlert: Step away from the Arabian looking guy with a rucksack immediately...

    @We're all gonna die. 300,000,000 people like this post...


    I give up. Shoot me now, or make them all go away.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "elevated imminence"

    What do you do when your system is too complex? You simplify, of course!

    But will that reduce the ridicule? Only some of it; the part that mocks its complexity. The part that mocks the bombastic vagueness and self-important panickmongery without substance to what is most important to people: What's the trouble? How do we defend against it? Will we be safe? The institutional answers are "the unspecified but indubitably very bad people yonder", "give up your civil liberties", and "listen to us, we're so honest", and you'll note that they're not very useful answers.

    The change isn't a substantial one, but does give ample opportunity for fresh and new ridicule. Lookit, if you thought the DHS thought you were stupid, not we're certain. They think we can't even handle five meaningless colours. Two will have to do. Black, and blacker!

    The real problem isn't in the colour codes. That's just a colourful self-supplied illustration of how stuck up their own arses they are. Lookit them pretty colours they're imagining. Or now the black and the blacker they're actually seeing. It's like "show and tell"; first the creative and now the practical approach.

    The trouble is built right into the structure of the TLAgency. It's their core belief. Yes, belief, because all the rational thought is strictly poured into supporting the premise, not in being self-critical. That would be bad for budget, see.

    A commedian here joked about a newsreader of Antillian descent joked that if she'd true to her heritage newsreading would be a lot more relaxing. It'd go like, said in a sing-song accent, "Well there are of course a lot of really troubling things happening in the world, it's large you know, but we can't dig into all of that now" and continue with the really important stuff, the weather.

    The DHS is pretty much the antithesis to that. Seeing trouble everywhere, always evangelizing people about the importance of the threats and being prepared and crap, but never adding much useful at all to the debate. You can't take them seriously; it'd kill you just for the heartburn. See? See? Them thar terrists have won!

    Hang'em high I say. Tar, feather & run out of town. No not "them thar terrists", they're just not important enough for anyone but some small national secret services to keep tabs on and occasionally smack down, or simply refuse a visa. The greedy bunch of the security horror theatre complex. Every last one of them.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Plenty of people use Facebook and Twitter. Might as well put notices up on them.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    You have... three... new terror alerts.

    Please click here and fill out the following survey to read the latest terror alert.

    (i.e., spammers will be all over this with using fake terror alerts to SE people into clicking their links and entirely drown out any real terror alerts the .gov chooses to announce this way. Bad idea, insecure unauthenticated comms medium, FAIL boat incoming in 3....2....1....)

  10. Ole Juul

    Administrative note

    Remember to tweet _before_ hitting the kill switch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      reminds me of a company I worked for years ago

      they used to host my dedicated server, then one of their customers decided to move over to my hosting rather than theirs, their solution was to send me an email expressing their displeasure and then immediately pull the network connections to the server.

      the only problem was that my mail server was hosted on the server they had just unplugged, I phoned up not knowing anything to ask whether there was a problem with the network since my server had vanished only to be given the answer of "read your f***ing email" and the phone being put down.

      when I phoned back and pointed out that since the server was offline I couldn't get any email they agreed to reconnect it for 5 minutes. (10 minutes later I was on the road to pull the server)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two levels of warning :

    "Be Afraid" ; "Be Very Afraid".

    I'm sure the result would be panic and a lot of attacks on innocent people as a consequence. How long before the first hack that generates a false warning and causes that panic?

    In order to avoid that situation, I would have thought they would have to take control of the media.

  12. Anonymous John

    So, if I understand this correctly.

    If you aren't on Facebook or Twitter, you're going to die.

    1. hplasm

      More likely-

      If you're not on Facebook or Twitter, you'll wonder what everyone is panicking about, shrug, and have a nice stressfree day.

  13. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Alert Colour of the Day

    I'll miss the colour levels - although I can never remembers what they mean ... but it's nice to get on a plane thinking that the flavour of the days is Peach ... or was it Cherry?

  14. Mystic Megabyte

    Orson Welles

    War of the Worlds 1938 broadcast.

    Lessons learned? Should be interesting to watch the reaction to these tweets.

    I imagine headless chickens on a grand scale.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Thus it ends ...

    Not with a bang but a twitter.

    Shit, you couldn't make this stuff up. Satire's dead, man.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would anyone notice?

    Would anyone notice or care if terrorists attacked the Twits and Faces? No loss there.

  17. Agent Heggle

    Freer Based Promotion code F . . .

    "The alerts would go public only after federal, state, and local officials had already been . . ."

    . . . Twitted and FaceBoked?

    So the 2 alert levels will be government, then the masses? I want the ability to block them . . .but first, I have to get on Twitter and FaceBoke.

  18. Bigpatc


    My company blocks twitter! How will i know if alQeda is in my undershorts? I think it is really a solution to fix the federal budget. If Charlie Sheen gets $4000 a tweet, think about the ads around "Terror Imminent Subway". Can you say 5$ footlong anyone?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Let me see, only after federal, state and local authorities had been advised first.

    Does that mean the public do not count or may be even do not count sufficiently important?

    By public I mean, of course, USA public rather than the world wide public.

    So, in this day and age is it fair to conclude that some US parties see its own US public as less important than its own US bureaucracy?

    Might they also be tempted to inform bureaucracies in other countries before informing their own public?

    (I don't know the answers but the questions seem worthy of being asked provided security is not compromised.)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    TJX hacker worked for US security

    "Albert Gonzalez, the hacker who masterminded the largest credit card heists in U.S. history, is asking a federal judge to throw out his earlier guilty pleas and lift his record-breaking 20-year prison sentence, on allegations that the government authorized his years-long crime spree".<br><br.

    "The government has acknowledged that Gonzalez was a key undercover Secret Service informant at the time of the breaches. Now, in a March 24 habeas corpus petition filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Gonzalez asserts that the Secret Service authorized him to commit the crimes."

  21. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    1. Get 'em scared

    2. Keep 'em scared

    3. Control

  22. Peter Murphy

    I've got no problem with governments tweeting or facebooking their warnings...

    As long as the warnings are actually of use to the public.

    Case in point: the Queensland Police Service were using social media to get emergency announcements out during the Brisbane floods this year. Bloody useful them were too - ranging from background info that everyone should know ("Even 50 cms of floodwaters can sweep you off your feet") to traffic information ("Warrego Highway is blocked west of Ipswich") to head-up-stuff ("Get the hell out of anywhere downstream of the Grantham floodwaters NOW"). It's the sort of stuff that saves lives.

    In contrast, I'm trying to figure out the utility of the DHS getting these sort of announcements out. They can't say anything as concrete as "Avoid flight KL125", because that would tip off the terrorists (if any). So what can they actually say that helps?

  23. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down


    I really don't understand the purpose of 'terror warnings' to the general public. By all means notify government institutions and those at risk of attack, but what's the point of shouting out to all and sundry 'AN ATTACK IS IMMINENT! MAYBE! Unless they change their mind as we now know about it!'

    Well, apart from FUD, of course.

  24. Mark .

    Re: Orson Welles

    "War of the Worlds 1938 broadcast. Lessons learned? Should be interesting to watch the reaction to these tweets. I imagine headless chickens on a grand scale"

    Actually, if the UK Twitter Joke Trial is anything to go by: people on Twitter and so on will be more than capable of distinguishing fantasy/jokes from actual alerts, and it'll be the police and judges that can't tell the difference.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    What's the point?

    Terror alerts on Twitter and Facebook? Great! Two new mediums where they can me largely ignored by the average American.

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