This is a personal rant I feel compelled to share.
This morning I came across an Amber Alert on Facebook that was shared by someone I’m connected to in my newsfeed. It was a heartbreaking notice of a (local to me) 18 month old child who was abducted after his father allegedly assaulted his mother and then made threats about taking not only his own life, but that of his innocent son as well (*Update – he has since been – thankfully – found safe).
I shared it on my wall and thought “why the hell isn’t Facebook doing more”? Why was this official, police issued Amber Alert not automatically included in my newsfeed since I live in the exact area in which it was issued?
Doing some research, I found out that in January of 2011, Facebook announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to:
“enable millions of Facebook users across the country receive AMBER Alerts via their accounts”
The key word to note there is “enable”. It’s an “opt in” program that I – and I’d guess most Facebook users – never even knew existed. It would appear, I’m not one of the 110,000 folks (out of the over 1 BILLION people on Facebook) “in the know” about this.
I’m also not one of the 33,000 people “in the know” (AKA, subscribed to the Texas Amber Alert app) out of the 26 MILLION people who live in Texas.
I have to invite notices of a local child in danger into my Facebook, yet big brands and crappy websites get to intrude on my feed day in and day out as long as they shell out a few bucks to do so – with no way for me to opt out.
Am I the only person who sees a void here?
Look, I’m not saying that Facebook shouldn’t be able to monetize or that they shouldn’t be able to put ads in my feed. I get it – and they have every right to profit off of me as a free user of their service.
But as the world’s most visited website and therefore also the largest hub for social media in existence, isn’t it time they stepped up and showed more social responsibility in that world?
Could they not devote the same time to integrating official, police issued Amber Alerts into our newsfeeds as they did on say creating new emoticons?
Facebook gives me the ability as an advertiser to target anyone who lives within 25 miles of Houston:
If they integrated Amber Alerts into our feeds, they’d have been able to put this toddler’s face in front of 2.3 MILLION people – directly in the city where he went missing (and believed to be in grave danger) right when it was issued.
My local Shell station runs a TV channel advertising the lottery at their cash register that taps into the local Amber Alert system. How can Facebook not feel a moral responsibility – a SOCIAL responsibility – to do the same?
I’m not asking Facebook to build new technology. I’m asking them to use technology they’ve already built to do some good in addition to doing some advertising.
It’s time to grow up Facebook. You’re not a group of college kids developing code anymore.
You’re a real physical part of our world, even if your actual existence is virtual in nature.
It’s time to start figuring out how you can improve that world in addition to figuring out how to monetize it.