As tens of millions of people begin using Threads, Meta’s rival to Twitter, police and emergency response agencies across Canada are considering embracing the new text-based app.
For years, Twitter has been a go-to source for the media and the broader public to get real-time information from public agencies, especially on situations that impact safety.
Threads has launched during a turbulent time for Twitter following its takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, whose leadership has compelled some users to look for alternative platforms.
Some Canadian public agencies are already on Threads, but many others said they were still considering whether to launch an account.
The early adopters include police services in Calgary and Edmonton.
Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Carolin Maran said the force “has a Threads account and is currently developing a strategy for its ongoing use,” adding that its Twitter accounts “will remain active.”
The RCMP also said it was open to using Threads, but was sticking for now with its existing platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, the Meta-owned product that built Threads.
“As the footprint and reach of traditional media has been reduced, social media has been a very useful tool in that regard,” said Marie-Eve Breton, an RCMP spokesperson.
“However, as these tools evolve and rules governing their use change our communications strategies will need to change with them.”
Firefighter and police agencies in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal said they are evaluating Threads, but do not yet have an account.
Ahmed Al-Rawi, a communications expert at Simon Fraser University, said public agencies releasing essential, time-sensitive information face challenges in relying too heavily on social media, especially given the dizzying policy changes on some platforms.
On July 2, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure found itself blocked from posting essential route and travel information to its Twitter account during the province’s wildfire season, as it was in breach of new rules capping the number of tweets.
“DriveBC on Twitter and its sub-accounts have exceeded the temporarily imposed post rate limit,” the ministry tweeted.
Twitter ultimately restored DriveBC’s ability to post public service updates.
The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) suspended service updates in April after Twitter introduced its tweet limit.
The MTA eventually returned to giving service updates after Twitter reversed course on its policy limiting posting by government or public organizations.
Al-Rawi said that “Twitter is unreliable for sure.”
He added that social media remains a useful tool for reaching certain demographics but a broader communications strategy is still necessary to reach certain groups, notably the elderly.
“I still see the importance of being also present on traditional TV, radio, newspapers and online,” he said.