Instagram said Wednesday it is rolling out Amber Alerts to share notices of missing children, following mounting criticism that the social media platform enables harm to kids.
Meta Director of Trust and Safety, Emily Vacher, said the feature will be fully available in 25 countries in the weeks to come. Meta operates Instagram and Facebook, which has previously made Amber Alerts available on its service. The law enforcement-approved alerts are distributed through a variety of communications, including television broadcasts.
“These alerts are rare and specific to the search area. If you get one, it means there is an active search for a missing child nearby,” Ms. Vacher said on Instagram’s blog. “In order to know who to show these alerts to, we use a variety of signals, including the city you list on your profile, your IP address and location services (if you have it turned on).”
Criticism of Instagram endangering kids has come from concerned parents and lawmakers. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, criticized Instagram in December 2021 for its “repeated failures to protect children’s privacy.”
Ms. Blackburn has also cited problems exacerbating human trafficking and young girls’ risk of suicide as issues on Facebook that she is scrutinizing in her work as part of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety, and data security.
That subcommittee questioned Instagram head Adam Mosseri in December. Prior to appearing before Congress, Mr. Mosseri announced plans to pause the development of “Instagram Kids” that was intended to be a version of the platform for children under age 13.
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While Congress has debated proposals that would affect Meta and Instagram’s operations via antitrust, privacy and speech policy, Instagram has courted supporters for its new efforts on child protection.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children CEO Michelle DeLaune lauded Instagram as a good venue for sharing missing child notifications.
“Instagram is a platform based on the power of photos, making it a perfect fit for the Amber Alert program,” Ms. DeLaune said in a statement shared by Instagram. “We know that photos are a critical tool in the search for missing children and by expanding the reach to the Instagram audience, we’ll be able to share photos of missing children with so many more people.”