Facebook helps find missing children in nifty PR move

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Facebook's agreed to display Amber Alerts - notifications of missing children - following a deal with the National Center for the Missing and Exploited Children and the Department of Justice.

It's a good PR move for the company, which has consistently refused to add a 'panic button' to its pages to allow people to report suspected grooming by pedophiles.

All it means, in fact, is that users can choose to friend one of the 53 Amber Alert pages that are being set up - one for each state, plus Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Alert bulletins for their state will then appear in their news feed, and they'll be able to share them with friends.

“Everyone at Facebook feels a responsibility to help protect children and, as a former federal prosecutor and a father of two, I am particularly proud that we are now part of the AMBER Alert program,” said Chris Sonderby, Facebook lead security and investigations counsel. 

“Our hearts go out to the families of the missing and our gratitude goes to the officers, volunteers, and other AMBER Alert partners who work tirelessly to bring them home.  We are hopeful that today’s announcement offers these dedicated officials another useful tool to find and safely recover abducted children.”

An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year, and the aim of the Amber Alert program is to instantly get help in searching for a missing child.The main method used is the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the broadcast system used for weather emergencies and other public emergencies. 

The alerts are also rebroadcast through outlets including internet service providers, the trucking industry and digital signage.

“Average people doing average things but paying attention are saving lives and reuniting families,” said Ernie Allen, president of NCMEC.  “With more than 500 million Facebook users this bold initiative will help us mobilize many more people and bring more missing children home.”