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Facebook Now Sends Out Amber Alerts in News Feed

Facebook is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Facebook may soon ask for your help — and bring a more serious tone to your News Feed in the process.

The social network will now surface Amber Alerts within users’ News Feeds as part of a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to Emily Vacher, trust and safety manager at Facebook.


Those Amber Alerts, which are sent out regionally when a child has been abducted, will include relevant info like photos, person or vehicle descriptions, and emergency contact info, Vacher said. Users will also be able to share that post with their friends as a way to help spread the alert, she added.

The Amber Alerts will only appear for users who are geographically relevant — that is, users who are in the area and may be able to help. Because of this, Vacher estimates users will only see one or two alerts a year.

The alerts will be pushed out on both desktop and mobile; the mobile element may be the most helpful given many people check Facebook on mobile when they’re actually outside the home.

“If you’re sitting on your couch in your pajamas and you’re about to go to bed and see one of these, you’re really not going to be much help,” said Vacher. “But if this message comes to you at the post office, or the grocery store, or on the metro, you’re in a position where you can actually provide assistance that could bring the child home.”

Facebook’s Amber Alerts will not include push notifications (they will just appear in your News Feed). Vacher said many people already receive Amber Alert notifications from their mobile provider, and Facebook wants to complement existing services, so a second notification probably isn’t necessary.

The addition of Amber Alerts is one of a handful of changes Facebook has made in the past few months to bring more serious, useful tools to the News Feed. Facebook added a safety feature in October for natural disasters, and prompted users to donate to fight Ebola in November.

The Amber Alerts feature is operational for all U.S. users as of Tuesday.

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