On Tuesday, January 13, 2015 it was announced that Facebook will start working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) by posting Amber Alerts on users’ News Feeds who are identified as being in the targeted search area of the abducted child.
In a phone interview with Larry Magid, a Tech journalist who serves on the NCMEC board of directors, NCMEC founder John Walsh emphasizes how Facebook will reach individuals in ways that TV, radio, and billboards cannot. With partners like Facebook, pictures and detailed descriptions of the children will reach a broader range of people, especially teens and young adults who engage Facebook on a daily basis. This demographic is currently all but inactive in relation to Amber Alerts.
While text alerts, radio and billboards don’t include pictures, thereby limiting their effectiveness, Facebook does not plan to notify its users of an Amber Alert through push notifications, a decision that while understood, may ultimately decrease the odds of a timely recovery of the missing child.
In his conversation with Larry Magid, Walsh addresses his concern that the public, as they
go-about their daily lives, may be inclined to disregard the Amber Alerts in their News Feeds, a common response in our society. A lack of engagement when critically needed is due to a much studied social, psychological phenomenon that falsely assumes that ‘things will work out’ or that the matter will be handled by another. Walsh hopes that this partnership will help the crowd connect with the distress of the missing child’s family.
Can this new partnership with Facebook be a step forward in changing the crowd’s perspective and response to matters of public safety and security matters? Is it possible that Facebook’s ‘share’ feature will permit its users to conveniently engage in matters critical to our collective
The use of social media to build a safer and more connected world certainly appears to be promising. We are hopeful of future annual reports from Amber Alerts celebrating the success of the Facebook partnership.
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