AMBER Alert U.S. Briefs: Issue 2 2023

Short news items about AMBER Alert & child protection issues—from across the United States

Illustration of embarrassed young woman looking at a computer screen

NCMEC’s new ‘Take It Down’ tool helps remove explicit web imagery of children

“Take It Down,” a free online service run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), is helping remove sexually explicit images or videos depicting children under age 18. And NCMEC’s work is paying off: Since “Take It Down” launched in December 2022, more than 200 cases have been resolved. The process works by assigning a unique digital fingerprint, or hash value, to specific images or videos. Participating tech platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Pornhub, and OnlyFans, use the hash values to detect and remove the disturbing imagery from their sites. Individuals also can submit a request to remove explicit visual content.

Digital "AMBER Alert" sign atop the front of a public bus

New Utah law aims to improve the (over)use of AMBER Alerts

A new state law in Utah—designed to improve the criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts—went into effect May 3. Representative Ryan Wilcox of Ogden sponsored HB266 which prohibits law enforcement from issuing AMBER Alerts for runaways or child custody disputes unless the child faces a credible threat of imminent danger. Wilcox told that the overuse of AMBER Alerts has caused people to opt out of receiving the alerts or ignore them, which diminishes their effectiveness. Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed the bill into law in March.

Illustration of African American silhouettes on "Missing" signs

Ebony Alert’ seeks to end racial disparity in missing person cases

Black Americans go missing at a disproportionate rate compared to other races in the U.S., and California lawmakers want to address that disparity. New legislation would allow an “Ebony Alert” for missing Black women and children ages 12 to 25. Proponents of the legislation say this will put a face on missing Black children, who are often classified as runaways and don’t fit criteria for an AMBER Alert.

Image of Athena Strand

Texas lawmakers pass ‘Athena Alert’ bill to create localized version of an AMBER Alert

In May 2023, Texas lawmakers approved HB3556, which would allow law enforcement to immediately notify people within a 100-mile radius as soon as a child goes missing. The “Athena Alert” bill is named for 7-year-old Athena Strand, who was kidnapped and killed last year by a FedEx driver who made a delivery to her Wise County home. The bill aims to close the gap between when a child is reported missing and when the child’s case meets state criteria for an AMBER Alert (for a confirmed abduction). The bill awaits Governor Greg Abbott’s signature into law.