Amber Alerts is a program that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has developed in partnership with Facebook. Amber Alerts launches today for U.S. users. This is a new way to locate a missing child just by checking Facebook. If a child has gone missing in a region, Facebook will send Amber Alerts to its users in that specific place.
When the announcement of the partnership took place, Emily Vacher, Facebook’s manager for Security, Trust and Safety, said that “Facebook … in essence in this situation, is the world’s largest neighborhood watch.”
When law enforcement issues an Amber Alert for a specific region, a text message will be pushed to user’s computer or phone from Facebook. The targeted alert will include detailed information on the missing child from law enforcement. This information can include: the picture of the missing child, birth marks, what the child wore last time it was seen, a vehicle description, where the missing child was last seen and any other useful information specific for the case. Amber Alerts will provide on Facebook for users that are located in that search area information liked to the case. Users can share the alert with Facebook friends to enlarge the search area to their personal network.
Emily Vacher said that people should know these events are rare. They can help to bring a child home by just observing, looking around and paying attention to small but important hints.
John Walsh, the co-founder of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that a perpetrator that kidnaps and murders a child will do this terrible act in the first four hours from the moment he abducted the child. Missing children can have, with the help of a vigilant community and Amber Alerts, a better chance to be found. John Walsh lost his 6-year old son in 1981. His child was kidnapped and murdered. According to Walsh, fast moving information that travels on Facebook can save lives in some cases. It all depends on how fast people react and transmit information they observe.
Facebook users shared information about Amber Alerts since the announcement was made. Missing children have been found before, thanks to previous efforts when the program was not developed. Amber Alerts program was designed to enhance time efficiency and the reach. Walsh said also that the program can have a significant impact in countryside and rural regions. The platform for social networking can speed up the process of finding a missing child.
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