Instagram is incorporating AMBER Alerts into its app.
AMBER Alerts, which is short for American's Missing: Child Broadcast Emergency Response, were launched 26 years ago as a nationwide system to help find lost and abducted children by sharing alerts on TV, radio, highway signs, and via SMS alerts. You know them as those loud and important notifications that you get on your smartphone whenever a child goes missing.
Now that system of alerts is rolling out (opens in new tab) on one of the world's most popular social media platforms. When an AMBER Alert is activated by the police, a new post will appear in your Instagram feed alerting you to the missing child.
The AMBER post will have a photograph of the child, a brief description of where they were last seen, and any other information available that will help locate them. You’ll be able to share the alert with your friends, and if anybody manages to see the missing person, Instagram provides a phone number where you can contact your local police department.
Instagram, which is owned by Meta, said in a release that AMBER Alerts are specific to your general area and the app will utilize a combination of IP addresses, phone location, and the city listed on your profile to decide who gets which notification.
Instagram is partnering up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the US and several other international organizations to make this feature possible.
AMBER Alerts on Instagram will eventually roll out to 24 other countries within the coming weeks although it will probably be under a different name. AMBER Alerts is an American system but other countries do have their own child abduction alerts.
Analysis: Successful alerts
Adding an AMBER Alert to the digital space is not new. Google (opens in new tab) integrated these alerts into its Search and Maps service all the way back in 2012. Meta did the same back in 2015 by adding AMBER Alerts to Facebook’s feed. And like Instagram, Google and Facebook post a photograph of the missing child and other details that can help in finding the child. The good news about these mobile AMBER Alerts is that they’ve proven to be successful.
According to the US Department of Justice, 123 children have been found as a direct result of those wireless AMBER Alerts. A Meta representative told us that Facebook’s AMBER Alerts have helped in “hundreds of successful child endangerment cases around the world.”
It’s wonderful to see these systems working as they should and we hope to see other apps incorporate them.