Facebook announced this week that it has formed a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Center’s well-known “Amber Alert,” which broadcasts across the nation as soon as a child is reported as “missing” will now be posted to Facebook.
Approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year in America, according to the United States Department of Justice. Amber alert was created in 1996 after the horrific kidnapping and murder of 9-year old Amber Hagerman from her Texas home.
In its aftermath, national legislation was passed to create a response system, known as: “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” whose acronym is “Amber.” The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that the Amber alert has saved 728 children since its inception. In 2013, there were 164 Amber alerts on behalf of 196 children.
Under the new partnership, the National Center will be able to post to Facebook an Amber alert, to include the name of the child, photographs, last known locations and other information that is typical of Facebook posts. Amber alert posts will be broadcast according to geographical location so that Facebook users in a certain area will see the alerts to let them know of a possible abduction in their area. With approximately 152 million Facebook users in Canada and the US, law enforcement will have an incredibly large pool of citizens to help in the immediate aftermath of an abduction. Emily Vacher, Security, Trust and Safety Manager for Facebook says that Facebook is “…the world’s largest neighborhood watch.”
Law enforcement experts say that the key to locating a missing child is the immediate dissemination of information to the people most likely to be able to help. The Facebook platform, unlike TV, radio or sms broadcasts, allows for instant sharing, meaning that even those who may not have seen the alert will be informed. Clues, updates, outcomes can be shared—everything in real-time. John Walsh, founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says that Facebook offers tremendous hope to the families of missing children. “Most children that are going to be murdered by a perpetrator, it’s done immediately, within the first four hours.”
The idea for the partnership came to the mind of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg when he observed that users were already utilizing Facebook to help locate their own missing children.