Facebook 'Friends' Missing Children by Posting Amber Alerts

Filed under: In The News, Media

Facebook users may now sign up to receive Amber Alerts. Credit: Nicholas Kamm, AFP, Getty Images


When a child disappears, there ought to be a way to alert people.

Amber Alerts go out to TV and radio stations and are posted on highway signs. Of course, not everyone is watching TV, listening to the radio or driving down the road at just the right time.

There needs to be something else, something bigger.

There could be this massive international computer network (let's call it a "Web") where people can connect with one another. What would really help, would be to have a place (or "site") where some 500 million people regularly make use of this Web.

Hello?! Facebook?!

In a why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before moment, Facebook started posting Amber Alerts about missing children this week. Users of the social networking site (all 500 million-plus of them) can sign up to receive the alerts.

The Los Angeles Times reports the big kahunas at Facebook set up 53 new pages -- one for every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- where users can receive bulletins about missing kids.

"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," Chris Sonderby, Facebook's lead security and investigations counsel, tells the Times. "We are hopeful that today's announcement offers these dedicated officials another useful tool to find and safely recover abducted children."

Facebook officials made the move in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice (which runs the Amber Alert program) and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The Amber Alert program started in 1998, following the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas, two years earlier. Amber's name has since been turned into an acronym for "America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response."

"Average people doing average things, but paying attention, are saving lives and reuniting families," Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Missing & Exploited Children, tells the Times. "With more than 500 million Facebook users, this bold initiative will help us mobilize many more people and bring more missing children home."

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