When a family is looking for a missing child it is important that all search methods are explored. Many are forced to turn to novel methods to keep cases in the public eye, but it is not an easy task. A new search technique has just been launched in Brussels and it could very well prove effective if it catches on, just as the printing of images of missing children on milk cartons and other consumer products proved successful in some countries.
The organisations Missing Children Europe and Child Focus have inaugurated what is known as the NotFound project, which makes use of the World Wide Web and one of the frustrating messages that pop up on our computer screens from time to time. What the new project aims to do is turn the ‘not found pages’ – the so-called 404 error messages – into missing children messages.
The organisations say there are more than 644 million websites worldwide and they want to get as many of them as possible to download a special programme that allows internet visitors to see missing children messages below the usual 404 error message. They point out that the 404 pages are in fact one of the most consulted pages on the web. Companies that have already joined the project include: RTL, Kapaza, 2dehands, 2ememain, sa IPM, Concentra, Roularta, De Persgroep, Corelio, Sanoma, VMMA, Q-Group, FM Brussel and SBS Belgium.
Francis Herbert, the Secretary General of Missing Children Europe, said: “The idea of integrating missing person messages into 404 pages immediately seemed very interesting to us. We are always looking for new communication channels to distribute missing children messages and increase the chances to bring them home.”
Laurent Dochy, Digital Conceptor at Famous and creator of the NotFound project, added: ‘The 404 page is a cornerstone of the internet culture. An increasing number of websites designs have customised error pages that limit frustrations for the user. With the NotFound project we are however taking this one step further by giving these pages a reason to exist. The next step came easily: Page not found, neither is this child.’
Those who want to join the project can click on the www.notfound.org website.
Maryse Roland, spokeswoman for Child Focus, said: ‘This project will allow us to once again concentrate the attention on children whom we haven’t heard of for many years. These children risk falling into oblivion. The choice of the shown missing persons message on the 404 page will be at random: it could be a recent disappearance, or on the contrary, a child that has been missing for a long time. We already have a few major partners and invite every business or person with a website to join our project. No financial investment is required, just good will.’
On the technical side, the organisers say it is simple. Website operators just download a file through www.notfound.org and integrate it into a website. The missing child message will then automatically be displayed on the 404 pages of the website.