Amber Alerts are an important tool in helping locate abducted children. They’re authorized by law enforcement and broadcast via TVs, text messages, and other means. Now, Instagram will also push Amber Alerts into users’ feeds with the feature rolling out in the US today and set to be available in 25 total countries “in the next couple of weeks.” It shows how apps like Instagram have become basic communication infrastructure in the modern world.
Adding Amber Alerts to Instagram makes sense for a few reasons. First, younger generations may well ignore text messages but scroll through Instagram with some regularity. Second, while text alerts require people to click a link to get more information and photos of the missing child, Instagram’s alerts will include this info directly. It doesn’t seem the alerts will be issued as notifications — they’ll just appear in users’ regular feeds.
Facebook previously added Amber Alerts into the News Feed all the way back in 2015. But, if you’ve never seen one before, it shows how rare and focused these alerts are. Law enforcement has pretty strict guidelines about the context needed to issue one (a big requirement is a need for descriptive information about both the victim and the abductor as well as information about the suspect’s vehicle), and they’re only sent to people thought to be near the site of the abduction.
As Instagram said when announcing news of the integration, “If you get one, it means there is an active search for a missing child nearby. In order to know who to show these alerts to, we use a variety of signals, including the city you list on your profile, your IP address and location services (if you have it turned on).”
Instagram says the feature will be available in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Jamaica, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Taiwan, Ukraine, the UK, the UAE, and the US.