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Facebook to relay AMBER Alerts

Social networking giant Facebook has partnered with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to publish AMBER Alert bulletins about missing children through its news feed feature.

Beginning today, Facebook users can sign up to receive AMBER Alerts issued from any of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Island or the District of Columbia, each of which now has a dedicated Facebook page for the bulletins.

The Facebook partnership, billed as another step in the national expansion of the AMBER Alert program, looks to tap into the substantial communities already in place on the site to cast the widest possible net when a child is reported missing.

"Average people doing average things but paying attention are saving lives and reuniting families," NCMEC President Ernie Allen said in a statement. "With more than 500 million Facebook users, this bold initiative will help us mobilize many more people and bring more missing children home."

The AMBER (America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program grew out of a 1997 partnership between Dallas-area police and broadcasters following the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman the previous year in Arlington, Texas. In the time since, the program has grown into 120 interconnected networks around the United States, and spread to several other countries. In 2003, Congress directed the Justice Department to begin overseeing the program.

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