Amber Alerts On Cell Phones: Backlash Coming?

Amber Alert as it appeared on an iPhone.
Amber Alert as it appeared on an iPhone.

Scared by that Amber Alert earlier this week? You weren’t alone.

On Monday night, many Bay Area residents were jolted by a loud Amber Alert on their cell phones. Authorities issued the statewide alert, about a child abduction in San Diego, because they thought the kidnapper might be heading north.

Though the new system is used only in emergencies – and this certainly was one – the alerts apparently caused fear and confusion among recipients. Some are wondering if this will create a backlash.

According to an NPR report today by Steve Henn, a firm that analyzes Twitter traffic saw a spike in tweets containing the phrase “Amber Alert” in the hours immediately after the alert went out across California. “The sentiment of the overall tweets was definitely negative,” said the firm’s representative. More than 21,000 tweets used the phrase “Amber Alert” and the word “scared.” “OMFG” came up more than once, and the word “annoying” more than 1,700 times.

Henn’s report notes that the alerts, at least for now, are limited to 90 characters, with no photos, phone numbers or links allowed. The lack of information could contribute to the confusion and annoyance, and lead to opting out. As our Tuesday post on Newsfix pointed out, opting out of the alerts is easy — but no one involved wants that to happen.

“What we don’t want to see is a car-alarm syndrome where people disregard the alerts, or worse, they opt out,” said Brian Josef of CTIA, the wireless industry’s lobbying association in Washington.

“When a child has been abducted, it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” says Robert Hoever of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who is asking for alerts that have more useful information. “The more eyes and ears we have out there searching for the child, the smaller the haystack becomes, and the better our chances are of safely rescuing that child.”

 

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  • rawocd

    I find it appallingly representative of our selfish culture that people consider this an inconvenience. You know whats more inconvenient than an Amber Alert message? Being abducted. The minor inconvenience of your phone alerting you to the fact that someone else’s life is in danger is paltry compared to the benefit and increased chances of finding the abducted child. For Shame.

    • miss415

      The word “inconvenience” was not mentioned (in any form) anywhere in the article. By chance, did you get this Amber Alert? I did and I also was annoyed. Once I realized the sound was an Amber Alert, I was annoyed that there was insufficient information for me to help or make a difference in any way. I received the alert 3-4 times over a 2 day period but no plate number. In addition, I could not go back & view the alert after making or receiving a call or text~ it totally disappeared. Plus, the alarm that sounded was very unusual- unlike any alarm I’ve ever heard. I had no idea it was coming from my phone & happened to be standing near a carbon monoxide detector and thought that was where the sound came from at first. A text message would be better so at least we can go back & view the information.

      • Why do you care?

        The next logical step was to hit google. Searching for Amber Alert brought up the details.

        If you were annoyed, please put yourself in the shoes of the abducted child or her father.

        What a fscking selfish culture this country breeds!

        • Bayareadad

          As a young parent I remember the days of pictures of missing kids when they first appeared on the sides of milk cartons. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wondered then, as I do now what the cumulative effect is on our children as we repeatedly reinforce the exceedingly rare occurrences of child abductions. I am reminded of how irrational people can get each time I encounter someone who refuses to fly, but, is completely fine riding down the road in their automobile. I wonder if this next generation of kids will figure out even more effective ways of piling on more frequent and intrusive reminders that the world is, rarely, but once in a very great while, a very significant threat. I pray for the victims of abduction. I also pray that our society can figure out ways of rallying to the aid of these victims, without fanning the flames of irrational fears.

        • miss415

          What I said was,

          “I WAS ANNOYED THERE WAS INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION”

          I’m actually one of those people who had signed up for amber alerts on
          my phone about a year or so ago so I thought that was why I received it.

          If you actually read what I wrote, your reading comprehension resembles that of a 2nd grader. Before you get angry & frustrated and feel the need to start cussing people out, you should try & understand where they are coming from.

          I guess that was too many words for you comprehend.

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