BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Amber alerts expand to Facebook! The social media giant announced it’s putting a new feature on your feed that could save children’s lives—and it’s all prompted by a high-profile case right here in Maryland.
Christie Ileto has more.
Alleged kidnapper Timothy Virts was 400 miles away from Dundalk when spotted in a South Carolina motel last March via a viral Facebook post. Social media and a quick thinking motel clerk helped save a missing 11-year-old Baltimore County girl.
“That particular case that you’re referring to did spark Facebook thinking more critically about how they can work closer with us,” said National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Special Programs Director Robert Hoever.
Now Facebook’s 185 million users in the US will get Amber Alerts. They’re teaming up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who spoke to us via Skype.
“No matter where you are, if you’re in the area of an Amber alert, you’ll receive it in your news feed,” Hoever said.
It will include a photo of the missing child and other info like clothing and last known location.
Amber alerts are already posted on electronic highway signs and texted to your cell, but they don’t include photos and are sometimes limited to how much info it can give.
“The net just widens of people,” Maryland State Police Sgt. Marc Black said. “If you get that information, you can pass it on to someone else.”
Since 2003, Maryland State Police have had 118 requests for Amber alerts but only 34 met the criteria. Now, with the click of a button, a whole army of civilians are on alert, when seconds are critical to finding that missing child.
But how will this affect users who may already be receiving alerts from not only local news agencies but from the emergency alerts already on their phones?
Take our poll below:
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says so far, the alerts have helped save 728 children across the country.
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