Amber Alert Uses Facebook To Reach Masses
Ontario’s Amber Alert program has begun a new journey through Social Media giant Facebook. As of Friday October 8th their Facebook page has become visible to users worldwide and they hope the community can help them track down missing children in the real world. In less than 24 hours the page was already “liked” by over 18,000 people and looks to provide a new sense of hope for the authorities.
OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis says “In the first hours of a child abduction it’s extremely critical that we get information out to the public fast and there’s no time to waste.” This is why they are focusing their efforts on Facebook where they can post live updates and alerts that are immediately visible on the news feed.” With 15 million active Facebook users in Canada, authorities are hoping to spread the message quickly. Aside from their agreement with Facebook, the alerts are also broadcast on radio, TV, Ministry of Transportation highway signs, OLG terminals and convenience store LCD screens.
There is no doubt that this medium has created a new outlet for sharing information about missing children but as with all social media endeavors, there will always be risks. As we all know too well, when you share something online you can’t simply remove it afterwards. That content could be floating around the Internet for months and authorities want to ensure that citizens are double-checking how recent online Amber Alerts are before they take action.
Ontario is the third province to create an Amber Alert Facebook page (New Brunswick with 24,000 likes and PEI with 9,400 likes) and Canada is actually the first country to send Amber Alerts through Facebook. This seems to be the beginning of a new communication wave that, as with anything else, has its pros and cons. For now, just spreading the word quickly and reaching a mass audience simultaneously is enough to provide new hope for children across the province like the 16 out of 19 that were found using the alert system since 2003.
It’s great to see Facebook expanding beyond social interaction and becoming more mature. Businesses and organizations are finally beginning to realize the potential of tapping into the sites online communities. This is an excellent example of a provincial effort using social media to improve its reach and frequency with alerts/messages. Hopefully if everyone comes together and unites for a common cause, we can help the authorities track down missing children and potentially save their lives. If you haven’t already, please “like” Amber Alert Ontario’s Facebook page and help spread the word across the country that Social Media really can make a difference.