It is hard to escape it but Facebook is a very public, powerful and accessible tool. I have seen it be used to find a stolen car in only a couple of hours so what better way to find missing/abducted children? Today, the Australian law enforcement agencies have teamed up with Facebook to roll out the Facebook AMBER Alert system across Australia.
Facebook originally partnered with US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (known as NCMEC) to determine how they could help spread the word about missing children and help return them to their parents/guardians. After this, Facebook built their AMBER Alerts system which allows Facebook to push alerts from police to their users’ newsfeeds in relevant, targeted areas. Users can then click on the alert to obtain more information such as photos and details on the missing child. Obviously users can also share these alerts with their friends on Facebook.
Australia will now joins another eight countries where Facebook AMBER Alerts are live when it rolls out next week. The rate of stranger child abduction in Australia is low, but the AMBER Alerts will amplify those existing broadcast channels to issue immediate alerts to Facebook users who are in the area where the child has gone missing. The alert will remain active for 24 hours unless cancelled earlier by the police.
Facebook Director of Trust and Safety (and former US FBI agent) Emily Vacher said that:
We know that when a child is missing, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as quickly as possible. By getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, through AMBER Alerts on Facebook, we hope to help reunite missing children with their families faster.
We are deeply honoured to work together with all police forces across the country to ensure this is a national alerts system that helps children and their families no matter where they live in Australia.
The system is obviously an extremely useful tool for law enforcement as well, with Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart saying
The Facebook AMBER Alert capability will give us far greater reach into the community to appeal for urgent help to safely locate children who are at significant and imminent risk.
This use of social media for good is one invaluable tool that I hope I never have use for but it is good to know it is there to help if required.