FEMA and Trump send out mass “Presidential Alert”
5 October 2018
The Federal Emergency Management Agency carried out a test of a new “Presidential Alert” messaging system that effectively commandeered the cellphones of more than 150 million Americans Wednesday. A text warning similar to local “Amber Alerts” about missing children was displayed on cellphones throughout the country at 2:18 p.m. Eastern time.
The message read, “Presidential Alert. THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
FEMA’s Washington D.C. headquarters initiated the alert, sending it through its Internet-based Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which connects directly to the major cellphone providers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T. The providers then redirect the warning to every cellphone on their networks.
The alerts would not show up on phones where the power was turned off at the time, or where users were conducting conversations or data downloads. There were widespread anecdotal reports of inconsistent rebroadcast of the alerts—some people in a large meeting room getting the alerts while others didn’t, despite having similar phones and networks.
FEMA officials and state emergency agencies were reviewing the results in order to prepare a more comprehensive alert the next time the system is tested. A spokesman for the agency said, “All wireless provider gateways acknowledged receipt of the test message.”
Unlike Amber alerts and extreme weather notifications, it is impossible for users to opt out of receiving “Presidential Alerts” from FEMA. The compulsory nature of the notification sparked a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York City, where a judge declined to issue an injunction…