Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Facebook expands 'Local Alert' tool in bid to help in emergencies

Stock MarketsAug 27, 2019 05:31PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items

By Arriana McLymore

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) announced on Tuesday that it was rolling out a tool that aims to provide users with potentially life-saving information in emergencies, as it seeks to improve its public image and play down its reputation as a network that aids the spread of misinformation.

Local Alerts, which it has been testing since last year in 300 cities including Charlotte, St. Louis and Miami and now plans to offer across the United States, is intended to provide reliable information to people caught up in events such as mass shootings and extreme weather, it said in a blog post.

Alongside other social media companies, Facebook has faced a barrage of international criticism for the way its platform has been used to spread conspiracy theories and extremist views and it is keen to focus attention instead on its role as a connector of friends and family.

The world's largest social media network already offers users the ability to let friends know they are safe during emergencies with a feature called Safety Check, but said it wanted to do more.

With Local Alerts, Facebook account holders in local government and among first responders such as the police and fire departments can send out messages that are then spread more widely by Facebook.

It was not immediately clear how useful the service was in its pilot phase. When asked if Local Alerts to date have been deployed quickly enough to make a difference or have been employed in situations where users were in danger, Facebook declined to give examples, citing the privacy of its account holders.

It also said the speed at which alerts were disseminated was dependent on the account holders.

In one example, when a disgruntled student opened fire during the last day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in April, the City of Charlotte Government's Facebook page sent a Local Alert notifying nearby residents when it was safe to return.

The alert was posted more than two hours after the shooting, said Ken Brown, Charlotte's Interim Media Relations Manager.

Some local authorities contacted by Reuters said they were using Local Alerts alongside other services to warn citizens of danger. Mt. Juliet Police Department in Tennessee said it uses a combination of Facebook Local Alerts, mobile text messages through the Nixle platform, and posts on local community media service Nextdoor to send emergency notifications.

The local authorities said they had sent alerts over emergencies including road closures, bad weather, and missing people.

"I grew up in Kansas and this is the time of year when we get a lot of tornadoes," Jimmy O'Keefe, Facebook's head of Product Marketing for News Publishing, said. "This tool would have given us a lot of peace of mind if it was around back then."

Facebook expands 'Local Alert' tool in bid to help in emergencies

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email