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Facebook brings Amber Alerts to news feeds to boost child safety

The deal enables the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to reach Facebook users within range of targeted search areas.

Amber Alerts will pop up in Facebook News Feeds. Facebook

The world's largest social network is integrating Amber Alerts into its platform, giving the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) a direct way to reach people who could help find the abducted children, Facebook announced on Tuesday.

Through the new arrangement, NCMEC will be able to post Amber Alerts in the news feeds of Facebook users who are within range of a search area. The alerts will include key information on the missing children, including photographs and physical descriptions, as well as descriptions of the alleged abductors.

"Law enforcement determines the range of the target area for each alert," Facebook Trust and Safety Manager Emily Vacher wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "The number of alerts people will see depends on how many alerts are issued in their area. Some people may see a few each year, and many people will likely get no alerts at all. The alerts will appear in News Feed, but will not trigger any notifications to a person's phone."

NCMEC has for the past four years had an opt-in Amber Alerts tool on Facebook, which allows users to opt to receive alerts through Facebook. However, this partnership paves the way for the two organizations to directly work together and share alerts as soon as they are issued.

Amber Alerts, established in 1996, is operated by the US Department of Justice. The alerts have helped recover 728 children since the service launched. The program is named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old child who was abducted and found murdered in Texas in 1996.

"Facebook will give parents and loved ones of missing children great hope," says NCMEC co-founder John Walsh. "I know Facebook users are going to help bring children home alive."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.