Moral Low Ground


Facebook Adds Amber Alerts to News Feeds

An electronic highway information sign in California flashes an Amber Alert. (Wikipedia)

An electronic highway information sign in California flashes an Amber Alert. (Wikipedia)

Social media giant Facebook announced Tuesday that it will begin including missing child advisories, known in the United States as Amber Alerts, in users’ news feeds.

USA Today reports Facebook has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to launch the new initiative, which will begin on Tuesday.

With 185 million US users, Facebook believes it is in a position to help locate some of the tens of thousands of children who go missing across America each year.

“When a child goes missing, the most important thing is getting out the relevant information, the correct information, to the right people at the right time,” Emily Vacher, Facebook head of global safety, told USA Today.

The Facebook Amber Alerts will geographically target individual users, who will receive the notifications when a child is reported missing in their area. Recipients will then be able to click a ‘learn more’ button and share the notifications with their Facebook friends.

“If you see an Amber Alert delivered, it means you are actually in a position to be able to help,” said Vacher.

“This a game changer,” NCMEC founder John Walsh, best known for creating and hosting the true crime program America’s Most Wanted, told USA Today. “Facebook is the 700-pound gorilla. It will put information about missing children into the hands of Facebook users immediately.”

The Amber Alert system is named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Texas girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle on January 13, 1996 and found dead three days later. The case remains unsolved, but when local media teamed up with police to enlist the public’s help in the search for the missing girl, the enduring notification system that now bears her name was born.

Seven years later, Congress passed the Protect Act, under which the Justice Department created a nationwide alert system. Amber Alerts are posted on electronic highway information signs, radio and television broadcasts and cell phone text messages. According to NCMEC, the alerts have helped law enforcement authorities locate 728 children.

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