Facebook Amber Alert system launches in Canada

WATCH ABOVE: Facebook Canada’s managing director along with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney discuss how the social media site will start sending Amber Alerts to Facebook users.

TORONTO – Facebook users in Canada will soon receive Amber Alert notifications to their timelines in an effort to help locate missing children in their area.

In collaboration with police forces across the country, the program will provide details about the missing child, along with a photo and all available details surrounding their possible abduction, on users’ mobile newsfeeds.

The notifications will only be delivered to users within the search area.

“When a child disappears, every second counts and statistics have shown that the rapid dissemination of information greatly increases the chances of locating a missing child, safe and sound,” Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children’s Society of Canada, said in a press release.

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“Facebook’s geo-targeted alerts will give Amber Alerts an expanded social media and Internet presence, thus greatly enhancing our abilities to quickly recover the child.”

The program launched in the U.S. in January in association with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children[1]. According to the social network, the program has already helped locate at least one abducted child, thanks to the help of Facebook users.

How it works

According to Facebook, once an Amber Alert is issued, the information will be sent directly to Facebook and distributed to users within the search area.

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Police in charge of the case will determine the range of the target area for each alert before Facebook shares it to user timelines – whether it be city wide, or province wide.

Users within the search area will be able to see information about the child – including a photograph – and any details surrounding their disappearance. Information about the suspected abductor and the description or licence plate of the vehicle involved will also be included.

Users will also be able to share the alert to their timelines to spread the word.

The company is still trying to determine the best way to communicate that an alert has been cancelled. “Facebook is currently exploring the best way to follow up on the status of an Amber Alert and would ultimately like to be able to let people know when and if a child has been found,” a spokesperson for Facebook told Global News.

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Social media has helped in recoveries before

Facebook has already proven extremely useful in spreading the word about missing children – especially in Canada.

Almost a year ago, a newborn baby was abducted from a hospital in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. After seeing a photo of the suspect on Facebook, four local teens – who recognized the woman from their school – located the suspect and called police.[2]

Just three hours after the baby went missing, authorities found the baby safe and sound.

Similarly, last March, a missing 11-year-old girl was found in a South Carolina motel room when a motel clerk called police after seeing an Amber Alert on Facebook.

“On behalf of the Harper Government, I applaud the launch of Facebook AMBER Alerts, a new tool that will mobilize the online community to help locate abducted Canadian children,” said Minister of public safety and emergency preparedness Steven Blaney in a statement.

This initiative complements our Government’s strong commitment to keep our streets and communities safe, particularly when it comes to the most vulnerable members of society – our children.”

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