Police partner with Facebook for child abduction alerts

Law enforcement agencies back Facebook-based ‘AMBER Alert’ system

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Australia’s federal, state, and territory police forces have partnered with Facebook to introduce a child abduction alert system to the social network.

The AMBER Alert system will allow police to issue Facebook-based alerts to people in areas where a child has been abducted or gone missing. Alerts using the system will last for 24 hours unless cancelled.

The original AMBER Alert system was introduced in the US in 1996, initially using radio stations to broadcast details of child abductions.

The acronym originally stood for ‘America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response’ and the system was named after Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl from Texas who was kidnapped and murdered.

Since 2011, Facebook has been used in the US to issue alerts, initially through AMBER Alert pages. In early 2015, the social media site started pushing alerts to US users of its service located in areas where an abduction had taken place.

"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,” Facebook director of trust and safety, Emily Vacher, said in a statement.

“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."

Facebook said that 15 million Australians use its social network.

“The ability to broadcast important details as a matter of urgency to a wide audience is critical for the timely return of a child to their loved ones,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

“Police rely on information from the community and the AMBER Alert system ensures more people across a location are notified and able to be alert to anything that could assist police.

“While the system streamlines protocols already in place, it is solely used in cases of an abducted child, however the element of abduction may not alone be enough to warrant an AMBER Alert.”

The system is used when police believe there is a risk of serious harm or death and enough information is available to share with the public to potentially locate a missing child.

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