Facebook has come up with a new initiative that will help find missing children and return them to their parents and guardians. The social networking company will use 185 million users in the U.S. to push Amber Alerts in News Feeds.
Location-based alert from Facebook
The new program was launched on Tuesday and is being introduced in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The alerts sent by the program will be based on the location of the user, and whoever is near the search area will get the alert in his or her Timeline.
Emily Vacher, the Trust and Safety Manager for Facebook security, said the most complete information available will be delivered by Facebook. The service requires no signing up by users. The platform will automatically send alerts to the user if a missing child is suspected to be in his or her area. The executive further added that users of social media in the USA will see one or two alerts in a year.
According to Vacher, users will also be allowed to share the information with their friends on the social networking site. “If you see an Amber Alert delivered, it means you are actually in a position to be able to help,” Vacher said.
A long-running alert system
The Amber Alert system is named after 9-year old Amber Hagermah, who was kidnapped 19 years ago while riding a bicycle in Arlington, Tex. and was murdered later. The program was initiated in 1996 and was a joint effort from broadcasters and local police to enlist the public’s help in the Dallas area for finding abducted or missing children.
In an interview with USA Today, NCMEC founder John Walsh said, “Facebook is the 700-pound gorilla. It will put information about missing children into the hands of Facebook users immediately.”
The Protect Act was passed by Congress in 2003, directing the Justice Department to establish a nationwide alert system. The alerts for finding missing children run on electronic highway signs, radio and television broadcasts, and through text messages on mobile phones. As shown by the records of NCMEC, since the beginning of the program, police have been able to find 728 children. About 180 alerts are issued by law enforcement officials each year through NCMEC.