Australians Can Now Help Find Missing Children Using Facebook

    People can click on the alert to see photos and other details about the missing child and then share the alert with friends.

    A Facebook tool that will push an alert into your news feed if a child disappears nearby was just launched by Australia's federal and state police forces.

    The tool, AMBER Alerts, is currently available in 12 other countries: including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Greece, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico, Malta, Jamaica and Luxembourg.

    From today, Australians can click on the alert to see photos and other details about the missing child and then share the alert with friends on Facebook.

    There won't be an option to comment on the post.

    "We don't want people leaving tips in a place that might not be monitored 24/7 by the police," Facebook's director of trust and safety, Emily Vacher, told BuzzFeed News.

    The alert will notify people in the area the child has been reported missing and will urge people who see the missing child or have relevant information to immediately call emergency services.

    "If a child goes missing say in Sydney we will initially launch that alert in Sydney but if a couple of days later there is a credible sighting of the child in Melbourne, we'll turn off the one in Sydney and turn on an alert for Melbourne," Vacher, who worked as an FBI special agent tackling crimes against children for a decade, said.

    AMBER Alerts - named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and killed in Texas - began in the United States in 1996 when the alerts were distributed via radio and television stations.

    "It was my job to go out and find the kids that were the subject of AMBER Alerts," Vacher said.

    When she left the FBI to join Facebook, Vacher said she wanted to create a tool that would put her former team "out of business".

    Every year 20,000 Australian children under the age of 18 are reported missing.

    Vacher said that of those children who would be killed by their abductors, it happened within the first four hours.

    "So the most important thing about the alerts is that they get out quickly... they also need to be incredibly rare because if we sent too many of these then people will become fatigued," she said.

    An alert will only be issued if the missing person is under 18, the police have reasonable belief there has been an abduction and the police have specific enough information that they can share with the public that would help return the child.

    Police in Trois-Rivieres, Canada, issued an alert via Facebook after a young woman disguised as a nurse walked into a hospital maternity ward and took Canadian mother Melissa McMahon’s day old daughter Victoria.

    Four strangers responded to the alert which had a description of the suspect's car.

    “We were on Facebook,” one of the four, Charlene Plante, told Canada’s CTV channel. “We just wanted to do something for the night, so we went out to find the car.”

    When police then released hospital surveillance images of the 21-year-old suspect disguised in a nursing uniform, Plante recognised her as her former neighbour.

    She headed to the suspect’s apartment and found a car which matched the description parked outside and called police.

    The baby was recovered and a woman was taken into custody.

    The moment when police recovered the child was posted on Facebook by one of the four friends.

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