Facebook is starting to tap into its huge user base to help locate missing children. It announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children this morning to begin placing AMBER Alerts, which inform people about abducted children at risk of serious harm, into the News Feed. The alerts will appear in specific areas, as determined by law enforcement, around the child's general location. Facebook says that it expects some people to see a few alerts each year, while others may not see any at all.
"Our goal is to help get these alerts out quickly."
AMBER Alerts have been around for nearly two decades now and have continually adapted to new technology to better get the word out. The alerts are already able to be sent to millions of cellphones to immediately inform the public of an abduction. Facebook's alerts won't be so immediate — it won't be sending you a notification — but they will be much more detailed. AMBER Alerts on Facebook will be able to include a photo of the child, a brief description of the situation, and a link to learn more. Facebook will also allow its users to share the alerts.
In addition to Facebook and cellphone alerts, AMBER Alerts may also interrupt TV and radio broadcasts and may take over highway signs. The program has been around since 1996 and has since been adopted by all 50 states. The NCMEC says that more than 720 children have been recovered during that time because of the alerts. "Our goal is to help get these alerts out quickly to the people who are in the best position to help," Facebook safety manager Emily Vache writes in a blog post. Facebook has access to millions of people in the United States, which makes this another big partnership for the NCMEC that should allow it to better get its messages out.