Facebook to send out ‘missing child’ alerts in UK news feeds

Facebook users in the UK will now get Child Rescue Alerts in their news feeds if a child has gone missing in their local area

Facebook will start diplaying pictures of missing children in people’s news feeds, in an attempt to alert the public when a child’s life is at risk, and galvanise people into sharing information.

The social network has teamed up with Missing People, the National Crime Agency and Groupcall Limited to launch Child Rescue Alerts, which it claims will help to get information out to the public as quickly as possible and increase eyes and ears on the streets.

“More than half of the people in the UK use Facebook. All over the world, we’ve seen communities rallying together in times of need, using Facebook to spread the word – and these alerts will make that quicker and help to reach more people than ever before during these exceptionally stressful and worrying times,” said Emily Vacher, trust and safety manager for Facebook.

“Working in partnership with several of the UK’s most critical support organisations, we hope we can enlist even more people to help reunite children with their families.”

When a Child Rescue Alert is issued, a Facebook post will now be shown in the news feeds of people who are located within the designated search area.

If an alert is activated by law enforcement and you are within the vicinity of the incident, the alert will appear on your Facebook page as the second item in your news feed. Alerts can be issued on a local, regional or national basis, so police can focus their resources based on the best available intelligence about a child’s whereabouts.

The alert may include a photo, description, location of the disappearance, and any other available information that can be provided to aid in the search. People on Facebook can then share it with friends to spread the word.

In the case where someone has information to share or believes they have seen the missing child, they can access the number to call directly from their Facebook post.

“When a child goes missing, public awareness is a vital tool which can help the police to save a life. Facebook’s support of Child Rescue Alert will not only enable an even larger number of people to be reached quickly – it means we can target the alert to greater effect by focussing on a specific search area,” said Sherri McAra, for the National Crime Agency.

“By harnessing the power of its community, Facebook is making our collective efforts to bring missing children to safety even more powerful.”

Facebook added that a Child Rescue Alert will only be issued if the missing child is believed to be at risk of serious harm or their life is in danger, so they should be taken seriously.

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