Public appeals were used in 71% of missing children cases in 2015 via channels such as websites and social media. The app, for example, is a public appeals tool that replaces a website’s useless ‘404 page not found’ error messages with posters of missing children. By doing so, thousands of website error pages help share information about geographically relevant missing children cases which increase the chances of finding them.

National Child Alerts

In extremely worrying missing children cases where the life of the child is at immediate risk, national child alert systems are additionally deployed. These national child alerts make use of varying channels including billboards and text messages to spread the word of the disappearance to as many people as possible in the shortest time. In 2015, national child alerts were used 15 times by 7 countries.

Impact of publicity appeals

Missing Children Europe has recently launched a scoping research regarding the impact and effectiveness of publicity appeals for missing children, in cooperation with the University of Portsmouth and the University of Abertay. 

Publicity campaigns through posters, social media, on websites etc. are commonly used to safeguard missing children. Very few to no attempts have however been made to evaluate the effectiveness of publicity campaigns, all of which were carried out in the USA. While scarce, the research tends to suggest that publicity appeals don’t necessarily positively impact the investigation or search. The dissemination of images of missing children furthermore raises potential issues regarding the impact that it may have on the protection of the child’s privacy and overall wellbeing. 

To address these potential concerns, Missing Children Europe ‘s scoping study will aim to explore the use of publicity appeals in cases of missing children, and to learn from and share experiences and good practices. One of the promising practices already mentioned by a participating organisation is the cooperation with Google in completing appeals under the right to be forgotten