missingpersons060413575tc
Thinkstock

(The Root) -- The recent discovery of three kidnapped women in Cleveland has left followers of the story wondering what could have been done to rescue them sooner. When Amanda Berry was kidnapped 10 years ago, social media was still in its infant stages, but now it is emerging as a viable tool in locating missing persons.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are often employed to spread the word about missing people online. Thanks to the ease of sharing information via retweets, reblogs and "likes," word of missing persons reaches many more people over a much larger geographical area. Friends and family often make Facebook pages dedicated to the search for those they're trying to find, and it often yields positive results.

"It's a really powerful way to find something outside of your immediate environment, your immediate network," said Temple University professor Susan Jacobson. In effect, it does online what the Amber Alert system does offline.

In solving missing-persons cases, loved ones and law enforcement alike use social media outlets. Police use them both to solicit information from large groups of people at once and also to monitor any potential online activity. Thanks to social media and the Amber Alert system, says one former police officer, missing children are located quicker than ever today.

Read more at Philly Burbs.