Emily Vacher, Facebook's Trust and Safety Manager, announced today that Facebook would integrate Amber Alerts into its news feed. Originating in the United States in 1996, Amber Alerts are a system whereby police can propagate information about missing or abducted children, including pictures of the child. The system has since spread to several other countries, and has resulted in hundreds of missing children being found and returned to their homes.
Amber alerts are normally distributed through television and radio stations, but there is huge potential for distributing them through social media as well. In 2014, an 11-year-old girl was rescued because a motel owner recognized her from an Amber Alert that had been shared with her on Facebook. She reported it to the police, and the child was found completely unharmed. This incident shows how useful social media can be in spreading this kind of information, and that it does save lives.
Facebook has teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who issues the Amber Alerts, which will then show up in the Facebook news feed. Which alerts people see will be based on their geographic location, and some people might not see any alerts at all. Law enforcement will decide the range of each Amber Alert based on the details of the case. People can then share the alert with their friends, which includes a link to the most up to date information on the case.
As television viewership continues to decline, harnessing social media may be a powerful tool to get this information to people who might not have seen it otherwise. Facebook has hundreds of millions of daily users. Getting the message out to an audience that large greatly increases the likelihood of an abducted child being recognized and reported to authorities.
If you're looking for more information on Amber Alerts or the National Center for Missing Children, you can visit their official site.
Do you think integrating Amber Alerts into Facebook's news feed will lead to the rescue of more children? Should other social media sites take steps to integrate Amber Alerts? Leave your comments below.