For the first time ever, FEMA on Wednesday will be testing a nationwide "presidential alert" system that will send messages directly to Americans' cellphones

By Tierney McAfee
October 03, 2018 10:57 AM
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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

For the first time ever, FEMA on Wednesday will be testing a nationwide “presidential alert” system that will send messages directly to Americans’ cellphones.

The new emergency alert system will allow President Trump or any future presidents to issue a warning about a national crisis.

The first test will take place at 2:18 p.m. EST on Wednesday. According to The New York Times, the message will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

As the Times notes, users cannot opt out of receiving the messages from President Trump, due to a 2006 law requiring the Federal Communications Commission to work with the wireless industry to send out the messages.

FEMA’s Antwane Johnson told CBS News correspondent Anna Werner, “When those messages appear on mobile devices, people should take those extremely seriously. It has some direct impact on either life or safety.”

“If we have something that’s of national significance, we can rapidly notify the American public of that event,” Johnson added.

Not everyone supports the alerts, however. Last week, three people from New York filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the system, arguing that it violates their free speech rights and constitutes an unconstitutional seizure of their electronic devices, Politico reported.

The lawsuit contends that the alerts will turn phones into “government loudspeakers” that would allow Trump or other presidents to issue propaganda.

The plaintiffs in the suit also accused Trump of disseminating “weaponized disinformation” on Twitter and said they “don’t wish to receive text messages, or messages of any kind, on any topic or subject, from Defendant Trump.”