The social network is rolling out an alert system which will raise the alarm if a British child disappears to lend help in the ‘golden hours’ that are key to saving lives
Facebook is preparing to launch a new emergency alert system designed to help members of the public find missing or abducted children.
Starting from today, urgent messages and pictures will be automatically posted to local people’s Facebook feeds whenever a child disappears.
The bulletins will include descriptions of both the child and any suspects, along with details of any suspected vehicle.
It has been launched in partnership with the Child Rescue Alert campaign (CRA) and the National Crime Agency, which is often referred to as “Britain’s FBI”.
Emily Vacher, Facebook’s trust and safety manager, said: “Time is critical when a child goes missing.
“The CRA could mean the difference between life and death. If you see one on Facebook don’t ignore it.”
Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine has still not been found after disappearing from a Portugese apartment in 2007, has backed Facebook’s emergency warning system.
“[Facebook’s] involvement will mean millions more people will be alerted,” she wrote in The Sun.
“The more people who see these alerts, the more likely we will be able to save children’s lives.”
A similar system was used in Canada last year to find the newborn baby Victoria McMahon , who was abducted from a hospital by a woman posing as a nurse.
McMahon was abducted from a Ville-Marie Hospital in Quebec, and then saved ” thanks to Facebook “, according to her mother.
Local police issued an “amber alert” through the social network, which quickly went viral.
The emergency call was spotted by Charlene Plant, who realised the wanted woman was a former neighbour.
She and three friends drove to the woman’s address, saw somebody was home and called police who burst into the house and found the baby.
The woman inside was arrested, and Victoria reunited with relieved mum Melissa McMahon three hours after she went missing.
Melissa posted a message on Facebook thanking all those who helped find her daughter, including the “marvellous” women who tracked Victoria down.
She said: “Four marvellous people, whom we had the chance to meet, identified this woman thanks to Facebook.”
“We felt a huge amount of support from the public. This victory is for you, too!
“I didn’t even dare imagine such a perfect ending.”
Research from the CRA has found that 140,000 children go missing in Britain every year.
It said there had been a 13% increase in child abductions in the past year, with almost 900 child abductions and child kidnappings reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The first six hours after a child’s appearance are the “golden hours” for finding kids, said Jo Youle, chief executive of the charity Missing People, which manages the Child Rescue Alert in partnership with the National Crime Agency.
“Every minute after a child’s disappearance is crucial to bringing them home safely,” she said in a statement.
“This fantastic new partnership with Facebook will mean even more members of the public can help safeguard children in the most extreme danger – and hopefully save a child’s life.”
A spokesperson for the National Crime Agency added: “The speed at which a large number of people can be reached and the opportunities for targeting the search area through Facebook will be valuable tools for police forces in the event of issuing a CRA.”
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