Facebook announced on Monday, speaking on the Child Focus premises in Brussels, that it will from now on publish Child Alerts released by the judicial authorities. The social media group will direct these into the newsfeeds of its Belgian users. Belgium is the 17th country in the world to collaborate with Facebook to disseminate wanted notices for missing children.
Child Alert is a system managed by the Child Focus foundation which can be activated by a judge if a child, whose life is in immediate danger, disappears. The system aims to warm citizens as quickly as possible by increasing the channels of dissemination. These include TV, mobile apps, e-mail, the dynamic message signs on motorways and from yesterday onwards, Facebook.
Since its launch in February 2011, the mechanism has only been used on two occasions. On December 20th, 2011, it was used to find a young man, aged 19, who disappeared in Wanze (in the province of Liège). On February 8th, 2014, it enabled the two children, originally from Heers (in the province of Limburg) to be found.
Families with a family member who has disappeared, often resort themselves to social networks when appealing for assistance. By directly collaborating with Facebook, Child Focus wishes to give even more visibility to the most exceptional alerts, involving the maximum number of people.
In practical terms, the American business will relay the message in the newsfeeds of its Belgian users, with a photograph of the child and all relevant information. Internet users can share the missing persons notice so as to increase the numbers of people who see it.
Emily Vacher, the Trust and Safety Director for Facebook, said, “We hope never to use this tool. However, if it becomes necessary we hope that it will help in finding missing children quickly, so that they can be reunited with their family.”