ALBANY, N.Y. – Beginning Tuesday, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is taking advantage of the fact that many Americans can’t resist checking their Facebook pages a couple of times a day.
The center hopes that integrating Amber Alerts into Facebook will help bring more missing children home.
Like many young adults, Anthony Pagano doesn’t follow local news much, but what news he does catch, likely comes from his Facebook feed.
“I saw one about a little kid with a mohawk that got missing,” he said.
Pagano is talking about five-year old Kenneth White, who was allegedly killed by his 19-year-old cousin. Police say the teen, Tiffany VanAlstyne, falsely reported his abduction by masked men in a black truck and an AMBER Alert was issued. Albany County’s Sheriff Craig Apple says its reach on Facebook was incredible.
“I can’t tell you how many, it probably hit millions of people by the time it was done,” said Apple.
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 will also 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.
“It is our hope it will result in bringing children home quickly and safely to their familie,” said Emily Vacher, Facebook Security Trust and Safety Manager.
And in situations where every second counts, Sheriff Apple says the quicker information gets out, the better.
“For them to be able to blast out and touch hundreds or thousands or millions of people in one time — that is an incredible idea,” said Sheriff Apple.
In fact, Sheriff Apple says he can’t find a downside, and hopes other social networks follow. And for people like Pagano who may not watch the news, but is on Facebook, it seems like a home run.
“Increase the chances of them being found, I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Facebook says it will only send the Amber Alerts to its users in the specific areas where a child goes missing.