ABC News | Missing person advocates push to expand search into online 'blank space'
Australia should follow the lead of countries overseas and use digital "blank space" to spread the word about missing people, a prominent advocate says.
- Argentina follows Europe and displays details of missing children on 404 error webpages
- Founder of Argentinian initiative expects pages to get up to 1.5 million hits
- Australian campaigner says online tools to find missing "haven't been a priority"
Missing Person Advocacy Network founder Loren O'Keefe said she was excited about the "endless opportunities" the internet created for searching those reported missing, but that authorities in Australia have shown little interest in exploring them.
Argentinean cybercrime lawyer Daniel Monastersky this month launched an initiative that posts profiles of missing children on "404 error" websites.
No Encontrado — which translates to "not found" in Spanish — was developed in partnership with the Buenos Aires Government over the past five years and is based on a similar initiative to Europe's NotFound.org, which launched in 2012.
As part of the program website owners sign up to have their 404 error pages display the photographs, details and information about when the children disappeared.
"No Encontrado's motive is errors that become opportunities," he said.
"From April we will have 165,000 sites that have joined the initiative and projections are 1,500,000 visualisations of the lost kids per day."
The initiative has already begun negotiations to expand into other parts of the country, Mexico and Colombia, as well as to feature missing adults.
"As a lawyer I have known many children who were captured through digital media and currently integrate trafficking networks," Mr Monastersky, who initiated legislation to crackdown on the grooming of children online, said.
"If I had no confidence [No Encontrado would work] I would not have done any of this. I am convinced that the internet is a wonderful tool to reach people give this type of information."
NotFound.org, which operates in several countries in western Europe, has been adopted by more than 5,300 websites and displayed posters of missing children over 65 million times since 2012.
Innovative opportunity 'hasn't been a priority' in Australia
The Australian Federal Police's (AFP) Missing Persons Coordination Centre said it would investigate the use of a NotFound.org-type initiative "for profiling purposes".
Ms O'Keefe, who started the organisation after mounting a campaign to find her brother Dan who went missing in 2011, said there were "unused canvases everywhere" online and called on Australia making better use of them to share information about missing people.
"Digital interfaces like web error pages are a perfect example of space that can be used for a better cause and there's no other social issue so dependent on public awareness," she said.
"This initiative is innovative, direct, effective — the exact type of thing our charity gets excited about."
But Ms O'Keefe said her organisation had developed online resources for families, a missing person database and a plug-in for sites to use to raise the profile of missing people.
"We are yet to find other agencies — police or otherwise — that are as passionate about introducing innovative ideas around the topic of missing persons," she said.
"It seemingly hasn't been a priority for police, MPs, authorities yet, so whilst we'd love to start rolling [a NotFound.org-like initiative] out in Australia, we simply don't have the resources to allocate to this project."
Ms O'Keefe said resourcing was not the only impediment, with Australia's privacy laws preventing some missing person alert programs that have proven successful in the United States.
An AFP spokesperson said Australian authorities spread profiles of missing people on police websites, social media, television, newsletters and on screens at McDonald's restaurants.
In 2012 the AFP also launched the Australian Police Child ID App to collect important information about children in the event they go missing.
- Almost 100 people go missing each day in Australia
- More than 35,000 people (20,000 under the age of 18) are recorded as missing annually
- There are 1,600 people considered long-term missing
- Teenage girls, the mentally ill and the elderly are most at risk of going missing
- One third of missing persons go missing more than once
Source: AFP Missing Persons Coordination Centre
Por Lukes Royes
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