Child Rescue Ireland alerts to appear on Facebook feeds

The social media giant is supporting the national alert system

Child Rescue Ireland alerts to appear on Facebook feeds

Image: Supplied

A system that alerts the public to cases of missing children is being launched on Facebook.

The social media giant is supporting the Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) alert system.

It means users will be alerted in emergency missing-child cases.

It will include a picture of the child and any other details that may help find them - such as a photo, hair colour and clothes.

Other details - such as a description of a vehicle - will also feature where appropriate.

Facebook users will be able to share the alert with their friends.

How the alerts will appear on Facebook | Image: Supplied to Newstalk.com

The system enables An Garda Síochána to seek the assistance of the public where a child has been abducted, and there is reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to their health or welfare.

CRI is an agreement between the gardaí, the media and information broadcasters to alert the public to a child abduction.

Information is broadcast through several media - including radio, television, internet and electronic road signs.

This expansion of the programme will include distribution through Facebook's newsfeed, giving people an instant way to share important information about a missing child.

How it works

The decision to declare a CRI Alert is made by An Garda Siochána when investigating abductions.

Once gardaí have been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their CRI Alert criteria, which are:

  • The child is under the age of 18-years-old
  • There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
  • There is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child
  • There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist An Garda Síochána in locating the child

A senior member of gardaí will assess whether these criteria have been met before authorising the CRI Alert.

They will then notify Facebook's security team, which operates on a 24/7 basis, that a verified CRI Alert is active.

Facebook will then send the alert to the newsfeeds of people in Ireland as quickly as possible.

Speaking at the launch, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "The extent of Facebook's reach means that its ability to swiftly communicate these critical CRI Alerts to a significant portion of the national population is unparalleled.

"The CRI Alert partnership is a wonderful example of using social media in a positive way for the good of society and, in particular, for the protection of vulnerable children.

"I commend the collaboration between An Garda Síochána and Facebook and also welcome the opportunity this engagement provides to raise awareness of the issue of missing persons, more generally."

(Left to right) Assistant Commissioner of Special Crime Operations John O'Driscoll, Facebook's director trust and safety Emily Vacher and Detective Superintendent Justin Kelly | Image: Supplied to Newstalk.com

Assistant Commissioner of Special Crime Operations, John O'Driscoll, said: "When a child is abducted and in danger, an extra pair of eyes can make all the difference.

"Since it was launched in 2012, our Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alerts already reach a big audience thanks to electronic road signs, radio and television, but now that they can be sent through Facebook, even more people will participate in the search, which significantly increases the chances of bringing the child back home safely."

Emily Vacher, Facebook's director of trust and safety, added: "The launch today shows the determination of the gardaí to increase the reach of Child Alert Ireland.

"We know that when a child is abducted, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as fast as possible.

"By getting the right information to the right people at the right time through Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alerts on Facebook, we hope to reunite children with their families faster."

Additional reporting: Paul Quinn