The first hours after a child goes missing are crucial to their safe recovery. That’s why it’s so important to spread the word. The Ontario AMBER Alert program utilizes social media to effect the dissemination of child abduction information. The viral power of social media enables us to reach hundreds of thousands of Canadians within mere moments of an alert going out.
Ontario AMBER Alert has maintained a Facebook page to communicate AMBER Alert information since 2010. The page currently has a following of approximately 185,000. It has been found to be very effective and, on occasion, has been used to communicate other child safety messaging. Ontario AMBER Alert created a Twitter account, “AMBER Alert Ontario” in 2014. The account has in excess of 10,000 followers and has been utilized during AMBER Alert activations to communicate information to the public. This account has also been used to gain public attention during a number of high-risk missing children’s cases.
Toronto-based Social Horse Power (SocialHP.com) is partnering with the AMBER Alert program bringing technology that will allow social media users to donate their social media feeds in the event of an AMBER Alert. This system interacts with Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Social media users can donate their social media feeds to the Ontario AMBER Alert program by registering at https://www.socialhp.com/
Social Horse Power is a platform that allows the community to donate their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn status in order to disseminate abduction information created by the AMBER Alert team. Users always have the ability to vet the messaging and the information generated by trusted AMBER Alert sites will post directly to the newsfeeds of the respective social media application in the form of a status update. This technology has been successfully used by the Missing Children’s Society of Canada (MCSC) since May of 2012.
In January of this year, Facebook unveiled a new program in the United States that allows it to target a defined area with AMBER Alert Activation information at the time of a child abduction incident. This notification system is now available in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. The information is viewed through a responsive design poster that has the ability to format itself based on the screen size the alert is being viewed on. The poster will be available in both French and English. The poster will also appear on www.OPP.ca during any AMBER Alert activation. The Facebook geo-targeted delivery system will post a notification on all Facebook users’ newsfeeds within a pre-determined radius of the last known location.
Ontario AMBER Alert will launch these new social media program enhancements on May 25, 2015, in support of International Missing Children’s Day. The Ontario AMBER Alert Facebook page and the AMBER Alert Ontario Twitter account will both serve as the platforms to publicize and officially launch these enhancements. Everyone has a role to play in protecting children. These enhancements and the public’s attention to AMBER Alerts support bringing children home safely.