MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Over half a billion people, all logging on to Facebook. That's more than the population of the United States, Germany and Japan combined. Now the social media site is partnering up with federal agencies, to bring home missing children safely.
This is the first of it's kind and by joining forces with the social media giant, its just one more tool in law enforcement's toolbox. When a child goes missing, time is the enemy. And probably no one knows that better than Amber Hagerman's family. Thursday marks the 15th anniversary since the young Texas girl (the AMBER Alerts were named after) was abducted and murdered. As the minutes tick by, so many families end up like Amber's.
"The latest research tells us, that in the most serious child abduction cases where children are abducted or murdered. In 3/4ths of those cases, the child is dead within the first three hours. So we can't wait until tomorrow," says Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Waiting until tomorrow won't happen anymore thanks to the billions enlisted in one social network's army.
Wednesday, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Department of Justice announced their partnership with Facebook, now offering AMBER Alert notifications sent straight to your Facebook page. "And that's why the eyes and the ears of the public are so important. Average people doing average things and simply paying attention can help us reunite children and save people's lives," says Ernie Allen.
"I think it's great that Facebook is recognizing that because of the status that the company has within our relationships with each other and because they don't really have competitors, it has a responsibility to perform those social functions, says Dylan Wittkower, Ph.D. Author of "Facebook & Philosophy" and Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University.
Every state plus District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have their own link. With the simple click of the "LIKE" button, you'll receive instantaneous notifications in the Palmetto and Tarheel state. With a half a billion Facebook users, law enforcement hopes you'll then "share" with your friends, helping the alerts go viral.
"If we hear something from a friend we're much more likely to pay attention to it. If we can use Facebook to pass around this sort of vital social along with the silly or trivial information that we share with each other all the time, we're much more likely to get that quicker," says Dylan Wittkower, Ph.D. And as spreading news has evolves from daily, to hourly, to nearly instantaneous, you might get that notification when seconds matter most.