Facebook Amber Alerts Show They Understand Trust and Safety

Rarely do you see such a great example of online Trust and Safety as the recently announced Amber Alert program by Facebook. Facebook should be congratulated for recognising the power of their data, their approach to partnerships and its application to real world safety.

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Amber Alerts originated in the US back in the 90s as a way for law enforcement to rapidly expand the number of eyes looking for abducted children. When a child is reported missing, alerts are delivered to the community through a variety of partnerships – radio stations, roads and traffic authorities, television and text messages. More recently, the Amber Alert program has been delivered through search engines and advertising, but these are generic channels with only passing relevance to a potential abduction. Enter Facebook, with their billions of users and their mobile phones, their knowledge of where you are (and where you regularly go), and a system that allows immediate notifications to a very specific set of people. If you are located in an area which law enforcement believes may be the scene of a current abduction attempt, you will see a message near the top of your news feed with details of the case and a way to report any sightings.

This is a company that understands Trust and Safety. Amber Alerts are not common in Australia, the program was only running in Queensland and despite success there was no obvious way to expand this nationally without requiring multiple rounds of negotiation and partnerships with state based agencies. Facebook managed to launch it nationally, at the same time, in partnership with the Australian Federal Police, a feat that few companies could pull off with the same level of effectiveness. This is great for business – AFP trusts Facebook to support live child abductions – Facebook is making a real difference in the world in line with their corporate values – the system and alerts are not a heavy burden on their business operations – it helps connect Facebook users with their real-life physical communities and increases their engagement with Facebook products. What’s not to like?

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I wonder how many other companies could pull off a huge Trust play like this. There are a few core requirements for a company wanting to do something like this to think about before executing an idea like Amber Alerts. They are:

  • Corporate values encourage a Trust and Safety culture
  • Resources invested into Trust and Safety solutions
  • Large customer reach and engagement
  • Specific customer and location data

The following companies could all potentially partner with the AFP and Amber Alerts to get involved. It may come more naturally for some than others, but all have the potential and resources to make it happen:

  • Uber: They have the customer reach and engagement (tens of thousands of drivers on the road any given day in Australia), they know their customers and real life locations, however their corporate values miss the boat and their investment into safety is obtuse.
  • Twitter: Values and investment are great, decent reach, however there’s little/no real life verified identity and location data linked with accounts.
  • eBay: They have customers, data and values that may make it work, however their purpose is so closely tied to retail shopping that it may be weird to see an amber alert
  • Nabo: While still a new company, their purpose and product is strongly tied to local communities, and have already dedicated a ‘Crime and Safety’ section of their app and site. They are on a great trajectory in putting T&S at the heart of their business, their only downside is reach today (that may change over time).
  • Apple: The holy grail? Great values, they know everything from where you are to what you buy to how your phone moves through space and time (like Uber), and they can afford it. Amber Alerts are already available for US customers, expect to see a similar launch in Australia at some point in future.

Well done to Facebook for this partnership, so far it’s the gold standard for online Trust and Safety in 2017.

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