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Facebook Adds Amber Alerts To News Feeds

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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - It's being called a potential game-changer in the effort to find missing kids. Facebook announced Tuesday it will add Amber Alerts to your News Feed to help track down abducted children.

If you're the parent of a missing child, you want as many resources as possible at your disposal. One of those resources is the Amber Alert on people's phones, but those can be deactivated. That's why Facebook's plan to include the alerts on News Feeds could make a big difference in saving lives.

Tuesday marked exactly 19 years since 9-year-old Amber Hagerman's abduction from her Arlington neighborhood, but time has not softened the loss for her mom.

"I think about her every day, and you know she's always in my heart and my thoughts, and I just keep going every day," Donna Williams said.

Hagerman's case remains open, but the Amber Alert system named after her has helped find hundreds of other children. Now in addition to freeway signs and local media coverage, Facebook will begin showing the alerts in the News Feeds of people in the relevant areas of missing children. Investigators say it could make all the difference.

"It's going to be verified through the Amber Alert program. Plus it's going to reach out to multiple News Feeds that might not otherwise be following one of those agencies that's putting it out," Plano Police Officer David Tilley said.

But it all comes down to the public paying attention to the messages. After Amber Alerts were introduced on people's phones, some began deactivating them because they found them distracting.

More than anyone, Donna Williams welcomes the Facebook plan to expand the system her daughter's abduction inspired.

"Because it does work, and it does save children. it helps bring kids home, where they belong," Williams said.

Because you voluntarily tell Facebook your location when you use the site, the social network will be able to target the news feeds of people in the designated search areas, and Facebook says that will also limit the number of alerts everyone receives.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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