China's largest ride-sharing company, Didi Chuxing, announced on Wednesday that its app will double up as a broadcasting platform to notify riders to look out for missing children.
Didi Chuxing said that when law enforcement agencies uploaded information about a missing child onto the official "Tuan Yuan" platform, which translates as "reunion" in English, the Didi app would flash an alert with key information on the case to its users, including the child's name, gender, age, last seen location and the contact for the local police.
Tuan Yuan was modeled on the America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER), which started in the U.S. in 1996 in response to the abduction and murder that year in Texas of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.
The aim of these so-called "AMBER alerts" is to make the public aware as quickly as possible of an abduction so they can report any sightings or other information to authorities.
Didi's nearly-400 million users in more than 400 Chinese cities will be part of a virtual volunteer network to help missing children reunite with their families. By tracking a Didi rider's GPS location, those within a 100 kilometer (62 miles) radius of a child's last known location will receive the alert first, and the radius would expand subsequently.
China's Ministry of Public Security and technology giant Alibaba launched the Tuan Yuan platform in May.
The system is staffed by more than 5,000 police officers, according to state-owned media the Global Times. The newspaper reported that 260 missing children were located within six months of the system's launch; of the 260, 18 were kidnapped, 152 left home deliberately and 52 were found dead.
The Global Times reported on Nov. 16 that the Tuan Yuan platform would partner with social media platforms Alipay, Tencent QQ and Didi Chuxing; existing partners of the system included social network Sina Weibo and online mapping service Amap.
Child trafficking is a notable problem in China. The Financial Times reported in December 2015 that thousands of children were trafficked in the country; some were given away by impoverished rural families and other were kidnapped and sold by criminal gangs.
In a media statement, Didi said it believed "the new initiative highlights the potential to harness the power of mobile internet technology to create a stronger and broader social fabric."