South Africa has become the first country in Africa to join to the Facebook Amber Alerts programme. This follows the announcement of a partnership between Facebook and The South African Police Service (SAPS) to use the Facebook platform and community to help find missing children.
The system enables the South African Police Service to seek assistance from the public when it is suspected that a child has been abducted and there is reason to believe there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.
Through Facebook’s Newsfeed, the Amber Alert enables people to instantly share important information about the missing child and suspected abductor, such as a photo, hair colour and clothing with their friends, family and Facebook groups.
By working with law enforcement in helping to share the right information with the right people, Facebook aims to help reunite missing children with their families as soon as possible.
Commenting on the launch, Emily Vacher, Facebook’s Director of Trust and Safety, said: “Amber Alerts is available in more than 20 countries worldwide, with more to follow. We are excited to partner with the South African Police Service to make Amber Alerts available in an African country for the first time.
“Africa is an important and growing market for us, and we are investing in our community across the continent. This partnership is a signal of our commitment to bringing the latest Facebook features to Africa, building communities, and giving people access to digital tools that improve their lives.”
How Amber Alerts work in South Africa
The decision to declare an Amber Alert is made by the law enforcement when investigating suspected abduction case. Once the law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their Amber Alert criteria, which includes: The abduction is of a child age 18 or younger; There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted; The South African Police Service believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm and there is enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child.
A senior member of the law enforcement will assess whether these criteria have been met before authorising the Amber Alert. The police service will then notify Facebook’s Global Security Operations Centre, which operates 24/7, that a verified Amber Alert is active. Facebook will then quickly send the alert to the News Feeds of people located in targeted search areas within the specific country.