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European initiative looks to put Internet error pages to use

A European initiative is asking companies to use their broken link pages to help find missing children.

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Google's shows you a broken robot . Twitter has a team of its mascot birds trying to lift an elephant . Error pages – that online limbo you go to when you click a broken link or there's a problem with a website – have become very creative, even cutesy. But now an initiative in Europe wants to make them more useful.

Missing Children Europe has partnered with Belgian NGO Child Focus to ask companies to donate their websites' error pages to help spread the word about missing children.

The idea, hatched by Belgian ad agency Famous, asks companies to download a tool that converts their "404 – Not found" pages into an ad to talk about a child who also has not been found.

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" Page not found, neither is [name here]" appears on the pages of participating companies, with a photo, case details, and a number to call to report any news.

"Publishing photos of a missing child is the most effective way to find them," Miguel Torres Garcia, the chief officer for missing children at Child Focus, said in the video about the new campaign.

Child Focus already places pictures of missing children on posters, online, and on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The program is also a marketing opportunity for participating companies, who can create goodwill with a page that usually elicits annoyance from website visitors and show that they are engaged in the issue.

The idea of donating online space to help find missing children has been put to use here in Canada, as well. In May, the Missing Children Society of Canada launched "the world's most valuable social network," which invited all Facebook users to donate their profile for occasional use to find kids here. The program, which came from agency Grey Canada, let participants authorize the group to post a message on their Facebook page with an alert when a child goes missing.

In August, it was put to the test for the first time, and helped to find a missing child in British Columbia. The Canadian program leverages the power of social media – and the new European effort makes use of a part of the Web that otherwise has only a narrow purpose.

"The 404-page is a cornerstone of the internet culture," Laurent Dochy, digital conceptor at Famous, and creator of the NotFound project, said in a statement. "An increasing number of websites designs have customized 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."

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