Facebook to send missing child alerts to UK members

Facebook alerts Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Alerts will include photographs of the missing children as well as other relevant descriptions

Facebook is to start sending missing child alerts to UK-based members who may be able to help.

Posts about high-risk cases will appear high up in the News Feeds of users who are located within the areas where officials are searching.

The firm's support for the police's Child Rescue Alerts scheme follows a similar Amber Alerts facility launched in the US and Canada in January.

The latest initiative has been welcomed by the UK's National Crime Agency.

"When a child goes missing, public awareness is a vital tool," said Sherri McAra, a tactical analyst for the NCA's Missing Persons Bureau.

"Facebook's support of Child Rescue Alert will not only enable an even larger number of people to be reached quickly - it means we can target the alert to greater effect by focussing on a specific search area."

Facebook said the alerts would be shown as the second item in affected users' News Feeds.

Targeting will be based on the place users have listed as their home location in their profiles, the internet address from which they most recently logged into Facebook and location data sent from the site's mobile apps.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Facebook launched its missing children service in North America earlier this year

The extent of the search area covered will be determined by the police - in some cases it could be a village and the surrounding land, in others the UK as a whole.

Posts will typically include a photo of the missing child, the location of their disappearance as well as other appropriate information.

Facebook suggested recipients could in turn share the posts with others they thought might be able to help.

It added that it would only promote cases in which the child was believed to be at a "serious risk" of harm.

One expert supported the approach.

"I think this is a helpful, good idea and shouldn't be irritating as I'd expect that the posts would only appear relatively infrequently in your feed," commented social media consultant Sue Llewellyn.

Facebook also offers a similar service in the Netherlands and South Korea and said its "goal is to continue to distribute it across the world".