Thanks to a law that allows presidents access to an “emergency alert” texting system, Donald Trump will soon have the ability to group-text everyone in America using the Wireless Emergency Alert system.
Students For Trump! So funny! Love his twitter! pic.twitter.com/pw0RKlhlEC
— SusanMillerFan (@SusanMillerFan) December 1, 2016
And, of course, everyone is panicking.
You think Trump's tweets are bad? Wait until he has control over the completely unblockable presidential alerts on your cell phone.
— Chris Lawrence (@lordsutch) November 29, 2016
I don't know what's more horrifying: the idea that the President could text-fear-monger, or that he'd text me Trump merchandise for 4 years.
— Ceil (@askceil) December 1, 2016
Only 49 more days until #Trump can send mass text alerts to our phones.
— Colby Droscher (@PepperPeanut) December 1, 2016
"Donald Trump will soon be able to text everyone in America" pic.twitter.com/Wel6t4kdit
— meg (@megantheginger) December 1, 2016
The Wireless Emergency Alerts, or “WEAs,” are a product of the WARN Act (Warning, Alert and Response Network Act), and are designed so that law enforcement and certain persons in authority can contact everyone in a targeted area through their cell phones.
Typically, the system is used to announce Amber Alerts for missing children and to warn people in the path of severe weather to take cover. But according to the bill’s language, the President is also allowed access to the system to send special messages, meaning that starting January 21, all of America will be on an unblockable group text with President Trump.
Of course, unless Trump makes a major change to White House policy, it’s unlikely he’ll be burning up your data minutes with random Twitter-like musings. The WEA Presidential messages are supposed to be for emergency management purposes, and Trump would likely have to clear his missives with FEMA and several other government agencies before sending them.
And he’d also have to navigate a complex system. WEAs are sent by the “Integrated Public Alert and Warning System,” which is managed by FEMA in cooperation with state and local law enforcement and emergency management. So even if Trump wants to text America at 3 a.m. to tell them that everyone in cable news is a “loser,” or urge Senate Democrats to confirm Sarah Palin to head up Veterans Affairs, he’d have to wake up half of Homeland Security to do it.
Plus, the texts are limited to 90 characters, which is 50 fewer than he’s used to.
If Trump wants to get a message out to everyone in America, he’s definitely better off using Twitter, since he can just pull out his phone and hit “send.” Most users are able to mute or block him there, but judging by past experience, his social media musings will make national headlines in mere seconds, anyway.