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house Bill H.R. 623

Does the Department of Homeland Security Need a Better Social Media Strategy?

Argument in favor

Emergency social media posts from the government can easily get lost in the flood of other posts — DHS needs a better plan for making sure the word gets out.

As society evolves technologically and through new social systems, we have a responsibility to communicate through those new methods. To limit emergency services to say, radio and television, when millions of citizens are "cord cutters" or utilizing web radio systems, is irresponsible, its akin to yelling at deaf people instead of using sign language.
Like (1)
Social media efficacy won't increase unless it's appropriated for. 500,000 is pretty lite.
Like (1)
Travis's Opinion
Social media is a huge aspect of today's society.
Like (1)

Argument opposed

Or, DHS could just google "social media dos and don'ts" for emergency tweeting and posting, y'know, save us all some money?

ThomasParker's Opinion
If our security is based on a social media strategy, we have serious problems.
Like (12)
Ron's Opinion
Existing emergency television and radio alerts will suffice. A social media alert usually follows with verification by tv or radio. Since the older generations predominantly don't use social media technology, this would be an unnecessary $500 million expenditure.
Like (3)
Alex's Opinion
The department of homeland security is one of the last departments that needs a strong social media presence.
Like (1)

What is House Bill H.R. 623?

This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a workgroup that can offer guidance and best practice tips to federal employees for how to use social media. Specifically, using social media for announcing and updating the public on a terrorist attack, or other national emergency.  

The legislation defines who gets to participate in the workgroup — including over 20 social media mavens from federal, state, local, and tribal governments, plus folks from private non-government organizations. All these experts would have to meet twice a year (either in person or virtually).  And, after all the social media guidance has been doled out, the workgroup would be required to write up an annual report for Congress outlining what was learned, including the "emerging trends" in emergency response on social media. 


People in the U.S. with social media accounts that are near danger or national emergency situations, the Department of Homelands Security, and other federal agencies that monitor and respond to national emergencies.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 623

$500.00 Thousand
A CBO cost estimate is unavailable. However, in an estimate of the bill's former version (H.R. 4263), the CBO found that implementation would cost less than $500,000 every year — if funding is available.

More Information

Of Note: It is undeniable that emergency response has been altered by the presence of social media, especially in the case of natural disasters. As noted in an article by Dina Fine Maron in Scientific American

"When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, Facebook was the new kid on the block. There was no Twitter for news updates, and the iPhone was not yet on the scene. By the time Hurricane Sandy slammed the eastern seaboard [in 2012], social media had become an integral part of disaster response, filling the void in areas where cell phone service was lost while millions of Americans looked to resources including Twitter and Facebook to keep informed, locate loved ones, notify authorities and express support. Gone are the days of one-way communication where only official sources provide bulletins on disaster news."
(Photo Credit: FEMA - 43938 - Disaster Survivor Shows Facebook Page" by David Fine - This image is from the FEMA Photo Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


DHS Social Media Improvement Act of 2015

Official Title

To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the Department of Homeland Security to establish a social media working group, and for other purposes.

bill Progress

  • EnactedNovember 5th, 2015
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The senate Passed October 7th, 2015
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed February 3rd, 2015
    Roll Call Vote 328 Yea / 51 Nay
      house Committees
      Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery
      Committee on Homeland Security
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    IntroducedJanuary 30th, 2015

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