Facebook's new system will send AMBER alerts to users in targeted search area after child's abduction
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined Facebook in announcing a new system to help finding missing children by revolutionizing the way AMBER Alerts are delivered. In partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Facebook's new distribution system will send AMBER Alerts to people's news feed if they are in the targeted search area after a child has been abducted. This step is just the latest by Facebook to ensure public safety on its platform, following its agreement with Schneiderman last year to implement safeguards to prevent the illegal sale of firearms on its site.
"Much like Facebook and Instagram's agreement to curb illegal gun sales on their platforms last year, today's announcement shows that responsible technology companies can use innovation not only to protect their own users, but also to enable users to help their own communities," Schneiderman said. "Seven hundred and twenty-eight children have been saved by AMBER Alerts so far - there's no telling how many more we could save if every social media site followed Facebook's lead. I urge those sites to join with us and help serve the public to their fullest capacity."
Emily Vacher, Facebook safety, trust and security manager, said, "For most people, these alerts will be rare, because they will only go to people who are in a position to help - those specifically within the designated search area. If you get an alert on Facebook, it means there is an active search for a missing child going on around you. The alert will provide the critical information you need to potentially help reunite a child with his or her family."
More than 180 AMBER Alerts are sent out each year. The chances of finding a missing child increase when more people are on the lookout - especially in the first few hours. The goal of the AMBER Alert program is to quickly galvanize the entire community in the search and recovery of a missing child.
Facebook's new system will allow the social media website to send an AMBER Alert directly to the mobile phones of people in the designated search areas when a child has been abducted. The alert will include important details about the child, such as a photo, description, location of the abduction, and any other available information that can be provided to the public to aid in the search. People also will have a direct link to the most up-to-date information about the case and, importantly, will be able to share the alert with friends.
Over the past four years, Schneiderman has prioritized working with technology companies to guarantee the safety and security of all New Yorkers online and in our communities. Last March, the attorney general was joined by leading gun safety organizations in announcing an agreement with Facebook and Instagram to implement new educational and enforcement reforms to curb the illegal sales of firearms on their platforms. Specifically, Facebook and Instagram have agreed to remove reported user posts that seek to circumvent gun laws, take action to prevent minors from viewing posts that aim to sell firearms, and provide education to better inform law-abiding private sellers of guns. More information on the agreement is available here.