Monday, Facebook Canada announced a new Amber Alert delivery system in the country.
In collaboration with police authorities, in the first few hours after a child has been abducted, the system will send alerts to the Facebook community. Facebook launched a similar system in the United States on Jan. 13 of this year and at least one confirmed recovery of an abducted child has taken place since then through the system.
Here’s basically how it works. A police organization confirms a case qualifies for an Amber Alert. The Amber alert co-ordinator for the province issues the alert sent directly to Facebook and distributed with any available information – a photograph of the child, name, description, suspected abductor and/or description of the vehicle and license plate number.
It is up to law enforcement to determine the range of the target area for each alert before Facebook shares it on individuals’ news feeds. Users in the search area are the only ones who will see these notifications.
Any time there is something we can do to help locate someone when they are abducted is positive. We can help save someone’s life or save someone from harm.
Social media has provided us with a perfect gateway to reach a larger cross-section of people in the area that matters to help find someone who’s gone missing.
Twitter, which is known for real-time updates on important news and tidbits, has long been seen as the best way to help pitch in. This is still a good tool to use to help locate someone who’s gone missing and many people use Twitter.
However, many people also use Facebook. While seen as a more private social media site, there are a lot of people who are on Facebook daily. Having these alerts shared on Facebook to reach more people is another good addition to help finding those who have gone missing.
As recommended by the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services, an Amber Alert is issued for a child under the age of 18 with confirmation the child has been abducted and police must also have enough information to make a search for the child possible. Police also must believe the child is in serious imminent danger.
Between 2003 and 2012, Canada issued 64 Amber Alerts involving 73 abducted children. Of those cases, 70 children were recovered and returned safely. The other three children died.
A possible criticism of the system is that with many of our news feeds filled with many news items and advertisements, it runs the risk of being missed. There is also the chance the search area isn’t big enough.
Of course, these are both possible, but as long as it reaches enough people who then share it among their friends, it will be helpful.
Even if it helps to save the life of one child to be returned safely home, then it’s worth it.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.