Twitter launches emergency alert system

Twitter has become an indispensable real-time news and information system for many people, and now the service has added a new element: authorized agencies — including the police, fire department and other emergency workers — can use the company’s new “Alerts” service to send critical messages to users who have signed up to receive them. The system, which marks emergency messages with a small orange bell icon, is similar to one that Twitter set up in Japan in 2011 in the aftermath of a series of earthquakes there.

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