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Facebook Local Alerts. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

Facebook today announced it will make its local alerts tool available to first responders, such as police and fire departments, to update followers about emergencies.

Why it matters: As local media outlets decline as a primary source of community news, local officials are tapping social media to communicate with residents in real time. Many cities already use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to track resident sentiment, and they also want to push messages to residents.

How it works: Facebook tested the tool with 350 first responder agencies over the past year.

  • A police officer, for example, could use the police department's Facebook page to send an alert to its followers about everyday disruptions like fog, water-main breaks or traffic closures — or about more threatening emergencies like a hurricane, fire or active shooter.
  • Starting Tuesday, Facebook will open up local alert access for first responders through an application process and will roll out the alerts to all local government and first responder pages nationally through the end of the year.
  • Facebook says that by marking posts as local alerts, authorities will "amplify their reach so that people living in an affected community are much more likely to see them."

Yes, but: This system is not meant to replace other emergency alert system, as not all residents are on Facebook and even those who are may not be following first responders' Facebook pages.

  • Jimmy O'Keefe, Facebook product marketing manager, said the company would vet public safety agencies to ensure that only legitimate pages were able to send alerts.

Go deeper

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

Trump gives farewell address: "We did what we came here to do"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump gave a farewell video address on Tuesday, saying that his administration "did what we came here to do — and so much more."

Why it matters, via Axios' Alayna Treene: The address is very different from the Trump we've seen in his final weeks as president — one who has refused to accept his loss, who peddled conspiracy theories that fueled the attack on the Capitol, and who is boycotting his successor's inauguration.