Twitter may have helped solve Amber Alert in Massachusetts – long version

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Summary:

Yesterday, Twitter may have helped to solve an Amber Alert, and saved a 1 year old girl who was kidnapped and in serious danger.  Here’s the best Twitter story ever.

Details:

The short version of Twitter solves Amber Alert is here if you don’t have time for this.

Yesterday was the best day in Twitter’s life because yesterday was the day when Twitter may have helped to find a kidnapped one year old baby girl named Jaylin Boudria.  We won’t know for a while if Twitter and cell phones helped, but the girl is safe, and that’s the important thing.

The Amber Alert spread like wildfire through Twitter.  People from all over the world ReTweeted it in the hope that somebody might be able to find the car containing this kidnapped girl.

Here’s the chronology from my point of view:

11:30 AM

Baby girl kidnapped in Swansea, MA.  It would be hours before it’s investigated, confirmed, et cetera, and it hits the radio.

2:30 PM

As I was listening to the radio, the state police broke in into the broadcast and said that there was an Amber Alert, and a one-year-old baby girl was in serious danger.  I looked at my computer to find the story from my friend, news reporter Ted Daniel (http://twitter.com/TedDanielFOX25), and sure enough he had Tweeted the information.  He had a pointer to a Fox news webpage with more detail.  I re-tweeted it immediately with the hope that some of my 20,000 followers would ReTweet it, and it would be passed on to many others.

My vision was that we would try to develop a huge “human chain” of people using Twitter, Facebook, and cell phones who could all be looking for the Silver Ford Focus that contained little girl.  If just one person could find the car with the distinctive Minnesota license plates, they could quietly follow the car and call the state police.

I realized, though, that most people with cell phones on the road wouldn’t have time to read the full webpage that most TV stations had dedicated to the cause.  I called Ted Daniel at Fox news and said that they should post a specific type of webpage that was just convenient for cell phone users with iPhones, Blackberries, Droids, et cetera.

There was no easy way to do it, but Kyle Bishop at Fox was willing to bend some corporate rules and create a “quick hack” page that would contain just the most critical information so that it can be read easily (in one or two screens) by people with Smartphones on the road. The info included:

  • The time and place where she was kidnapped
  • License plate number
  • Pictures of the kidnapper, the child and the car (brilliant ideas, Kyle and Fox)

I then kept ReTweeting the same information periodically and saw that tons of my followers were ReTweeting it to, including:

@NEMultimedia, @ZinoClassic, @socialcap, @NEMultimedia, @TimMCahill, @JessicaHanson, @pretty_peace, @PoshMom, @RussBenoit, @yolandafacio, @DJDeja, @eXapath, @CaronElectric, @JonMichaeli, @cielyn, @MichaelFina, @LisaRFrank, @The420Fairy, @deb_lavoy, @MojoCaster, @Lynnelle, @WellnessWebGirl, @KristinEDziadul, @embracegracie, @stevedragoo, @ConstantContact, @JackInChicago, @snhparents, @BillyMacDonald, @capegirlindc, @Manage_Kelley, @RedHeadMeag, @reviewingcigars, @smoketherev, @FlyTheSky, @billshander, @DrSES, @PeytonACraig, @joeckmrc, @kizerandbender, @ldg1109, @AllergyProne, @chupieandjsmama, @chupieandjsmama, @gothamli, @DavidAtNavigate, @stales, @airjan23, @PeytonACraig, @codeYogi, @TimDineen, @AlMcGourlay, @meghanwelborn, @Bloodslave78, @JudeNewcomb, @naked_beauty, @taojoannes, @sammeem, @BrightEndeavors, @helphandrewards, @hinda_incentiv

Hundreds of their followers tweeted it also.

I also had the idea that if I tweeted people with huge followings (like the celebrities that had three or 4 million followers) that if they re-tweeted it even once, the viral effect could help spread the word to millions of people.  Therefore, I sent tweets to Ashton Kutcher, Oprah, Shaquille O’Neal and others who had over 3 million followers.

I also monitored  the story on Tweetdeck  to see how many people were ReTweeting the story.  As you would hope and expect, people began to help by ReTweeting the story to their own followers. I also broke one of Twitters unspoken rules by ReTweeting the same information multiple times.  Throw me in Twitter jail if you want.  I’ll sleep well on that metal bed tonight.

The story changed, as the state police found out new information like

  • the fact that the car was actually a Silver Kia Wagon
  • the license plate might not have been accurate, but was a Minnesota license plate

and as they did, I updated my tweets.  The Twitter army ReTweeted the most current info to others.

I also used Twellow to find the people in the Boston area that had the most followers, and I sent tweets to them, hoping they would ReTweet it to their Boston following.

Sara Underwood (http://twitter.com/sara_underwood),  anchor for Fox news, tweeted about it.  It was picked up and ReTweeted by the actress Alyssa Milano, who passed it to 600,000 followers in a moment.

Every news station was running a text banner at the bottom of the page giving info about the little girl, and the Twitter community was in a frenzy sending it to people on the highways.

5:00 PM – The best Tweet ever

The little girl was found in a rest stop in Connecticut, and she’s safe.   Absolutely awesome.

We still don’t know exactly how the girl was found, and that probably won’t be known for days, so we don’t know if Twitter nation helped.  However, the fact is that a combination of Twitter, cell phones, radio, TV and the good nature of millions of people may have helped to find this girl in a way that was unimaginable a few years ago.  The “world village” saved one of its children.  I still get choked up thinking about it.

  • Amber alert ended.
  • Baby girl saved.
  • Total time – 5.5 hours
  • Not having to see her picture on a billboard for 10 years?  Priceless.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed about it on Fox TV news last night with Sarah Underwood.  The video is posted above.

Future generations will find a better way to do this.  When I say future generations, I mean myself and others in the next few months.  Some day, when I run the world, cell phone companies will be required to figure out a way to broadcast critical information in certain geographical regions to people on their cell phones.

However, for now, a three year old named Twitter may have helped us find a one year old named Jaylin.  It will be a long time before she realizes that if she was born a few years earlier, there may have been no way to save her.

Thanks to all of the people who ReTweeted, posted on Facebook, called people, or did anything else to help save her.  You are all heroes in my book.

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4 comments

1 Twitter helps solve Amber Alert in MA - short version | Missing LinkedIn Tips for Sales, Jobs, Recruiting, HR, etc { 02.19.10 at 12:11 pm }

[…] The long version is available at Twitter helps solve Amber Alert (long, but worth it). […]

2 Twitter Helps In Amber Alert « The View From Out Here { 02.19.10 at 2:14 pm }

[…] For the full story you can read Patrick’s account of it at the-linkedin-speaker.com […]

3 Josef { 02.19.10 at 6:24 pm }

You can follow the AmberAlert twitter feed for up to the minute amber alert info. http://twitter.com/Amber_Alert

4 Devin { 02.19.10 at 7:21 pm }

Any Amberalerts that get issued are always posted and blasted to amberalert.com’s website and subscriber base as well… they go out via facebook, twitter, cell phones and email. Great job spreading the word! So glad she is safe!!

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