Terrorist Threat Alerts Go Social

The next time you hear about a heightened threat of terrorists hijacking passenger trains or hiding bombs in cargo containers, it's as likely to come from a Facebook post or a friend's re-tweet as from an official government announcement or an old-fashioned email.

The Homeland Security Department retired its vague and often-mocked color coded terrorist threat system in favor of a new system that simply describes threats as "elevated" or "imminent," the department announced Wednesday.

The alerts will include as much information as possible about the geographic region and the target of the threat, such as the mode of transportation or type of infrastructure most likely to be in danger, the announcement said.

In addition to the new rating system, Homeland Security also is pushing the alerts out over a range of platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. Another reason for a dislike button on Facebook?

Threat watchers can sign up for social media threat alerts on the department's website. Unlike the color-coded system, there will be no resting threat level and each threat warning will carry an expiration date, the department said.