A high-tech system to help find missing children was put into operation on May 15 as a result of joint efforts by the police and Internet companies.
The Emergency Response System, led by the Ministry of Public Security, is similar to Amber Alert, a system for emergency information broadcasts about missing children in the United States. It also is the way that authorized government information is released on missing children.
Chinese police working on cases of missing children first post messages, including photos and physical characteristics, on an internal system developed by Alibaba, the e-commerce giant. The information can then be posted on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
The identities of officers from public security departments are verified at each level to ensure the veracity of what’s posted, according to Chen Shiqu, deputy inspector of the ministry’s criminal investigation bureau. Meanwhile, it is also intended to simplify complicated reporting procedures and help officers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, he said.
“In the past, the broadcast range of child abduction information was limited, as it was posted only in places where the kids were lost. But now it is extended and covers cyberspace, which is a quicker way to find missing children,” Chen said.
The system helps spread information in an effective manner by specifying the broadcast range, said Chen Jianfeng, director of the bureau’s anti-abduction office.
Information is broadcast to areas 100 kilometers from the place a child went missing within one hour, Chen Jianfeng said.
The range is extended to more than 500 kilometers if a child is missing for more than three hours, he said.
On May 15, the weibo account of the platform already had attracted more than 90,900 followers.
Cao Zenghui, vice-president of Sina Weibo, said the platform will deter the posting of fake information on missing children by netizens.
“Untrue or inaccurate information is a negative effect of public participation and is also a waste of web resources,” Cao said.
Liu Zhenfei, chief risk officer at Alibaba, said it should lead to more family reunifications across the country.
“It’s a good combination of our technical skills in information integration and the ministry’s determination to fight child abduction,” Liu said. More than 10 of the company’s engineers voluntarily worked in their spare time since November to set up the internal system.
A publicity campaign and a DNA database set up by the ministry in 2009 helped in the recovery of more than 440 abducted children last year, officials said.
Chen Shiqu said that the new online platform was created to improve the capacity for finding children, not because the number of such cases has greatly increased.