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Amber Alerts Debut on Facebook to Help Find Missing Kids

Facebook Brings On Amber Alerts to Help Find Missing Kids
Facebook has teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to bring Amber alerts to the social networking site.

Facebook announced at a press conference Wednesday that it will be offering an opt-in Amber alert notification program.

The program isn't terribly sophisticated--what Facebook's done is basically set up 53 Amber alert Facebook pages (one for each state, as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington D.C.) that users can "Like" or "become fans of." Facebook has also created a national Amber alert page (facebook.com/AMBERAlert) to direct people to the individual pages (facebook.com/AmberAlert[State's Initials]).

Amber alerts will then show up in your Facebook newsfeed, though Facebook's Adam Conner noted that the alerts will not take priority over other feeds. So if you've got a lot of Facebook friends, you may miss an alert or two. Facebook and NCMEC hope that people will see the alerts in their newsfeed and pass it on to create a viral effect.

Amber alerts are child abduction bulletins currently distributed via radio, TV, e-mail, text messages, and LED/LCD billboard signs. The alerts were originally named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996, though "AMBER" has since been made into a backronym for "America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response."

Unfortunately, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks have been associated with Amber alerts in the past--fake ones. A number of fake Amber alerts have circulated various social networks, attesting to people's good intentions but also potentially desensitizing them to real alerts. Hopefully Facebook's new program will bring enough credibility to the alerts that they'll actually be spread virally.

While signing up for your state's Amber alert page will only give you alerts from that state, Facebook says that the Amber alert program is sensitive to alerts in which travel may have happened. In this case, Facebook's Lead Security and Investigations Counsel Chris Sonderby says, an alert will appear on all of the relevant state pages--so you don't have to sign up for all 53 pages just to ensure you don't miss something.

Follow Sarah on Twitter (@geeklil) or at sarahpurewal.wordpress.com

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