Twitter and Australian Red Cross band together to launch emergency search prompt

The social media platform says it'll be a way for users to keep up to date with information during natural disasters and emergencies.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Screenshot/Twitter

Twitter Australia has announced a joint effort with the Australian Red Cross to introduce a natural disaster and emergency search prompt.

The feature will direct anyone in Australia who searches for certain keywords on Twitter, such as bushfire, flooding, and cyclone, to Australian Red Cross resources and the organisation's official Twitter account for updated information.

"Staying up-to-date about emergencies is critical, whether that's tuning into local radio or seeking updates on Twitter. In a flood, fire or cyclone, when you search on Twitter, you can now more easily find Red Cross updates to check your relatives are safe, or tips on getting prepared for example," Australian Red Cross head of emergency services Andrew Coghlan said.

Twitter also took the opportunity to advise users to find updates about a crisis in real time on Twitter by following other trusted sources such as @ABCemergency, @BOM_au, and local fire services, as well as using local hashtags like #QLDFloods or #NSWFires that the company said are often used to "coordinate and streamline conversation".

"To ensure these hashtags remain useful, refrain from using them for unrelated topics," Twitter said.

During Australia's Black Summer last year, Twitter bots and trolls used the social media platform to spread disinformation and false conspiracy theories about the cause behind the fires.

Research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) showed that a disinformation campaign was pushing the Twitter hashtag #ArsonEmergency when there was no arson emergency.

At the end of last year, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said it wants digital platforms to work together on the development of a single, industry-wide code of conduct to counter misinformation, centred on the consumer.

"The ACMA encourages platforms to consider a single, industry-wide code that provides appropriate protections and remedies for Australian users of digital platforms. It expects this code will be consumer-centric, readily accessible to the public, and fit-for-purpose for Australia," it wrote in a position paper [PDF] on the creation of a voluntary code or codes of practice on misinformation and news quality on digital platforms.

The ACMA expects the code to address misinformation across all types of news and information, including advertising and sponsored content, that is of a public or semi-public nature, distributed via digital platforms, and has the potential to cause harm.

It also expects the code to cover platforms' considerations of what constitutes quality sources of news and information, and how that is communicated to users.

Related Coverage

Data science vs social media disinformation: the case of climate change and the Australian bushfires

While a newly released World Weather Attribution study ties the Australian bushfires to anthropogenic climate change, disinformation on social media abounds

Facebook Disaster Maps data plays a part in tackling Australia's bushfires

Facebook has opened up real-time map data and has also pledged to donate to those fighting the blaze.

Twitter vows to work alongside Australia in thwarting foreign interference

The social media giant says the best way to avoid foreign interference on its platform is through collaboration with government entities, civil society experts, and industry peers.

Editorial standards