Facebook is now exploring ways to be a part of the emergency broadcast system. The social networking giant recently teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Users can now sign up for AMBER alert, allowing them to be informed when a child goes missing in the state he or she resides in. So far 53 AMBER pages have been set, one for each of the 50 state in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Here’s how it works: Each state has its own Facebook AMBER alert page which will alert page fans about the missing child once the police department receives and enters the information and posts it to the page. The fan pages will contain the missing child’s picture, name, age, a description and any other information that may be useful to the case. The company has actively been working with state and local agencies to help create the pages and insure their upkeep and accuracy and to maximize their full potential.
Although the idea of linking missing person reports to social networking sites isn’t a new one, Facebook has taken it to a new level. Myspace had an AMBER alert app years ago and Twitter accounts related to missing persons bulletins have been credited with locating missing children, but with Facebook’s 500 million users the alert potential is much greater and Facebook’s user base is now much more diverse.
The Facebook alert system has made sure not to alert just any random user, much like how the radio and TV broadcast systems operate, but rather only those who have opted in to the alerts by “liking” an AMBER alert page. Facebook wants to make sure that the people using the alert system are those that believe in it’s purpose and will actively help spread the alerts virally by posting in on their walls, status, or to other social networking sites like Twitter.
The AMBER alert website claims that so far, 525 children have been recovered as a result of the Facebook pages. The site also states that the first 3 hours a child goes missing in the most critical and using social media is proving to be an effective tool in spreading the alert at a rapid rate.
Facebook said they will be donating 50 million advertising impressions to help publicize this new system and its important cause. If the system’s success continues, the Facebook – AMBER alert partnership could serve as a model for state’s and the government in alerting people of other emergencies in the future.
I think this partnership is a wonderful step in using social media for a greater good. It creates awareness of the emergency quickly and gives hope for finding more missing children quicker.