The claim: Ghislaine Maxwell’s sister owns the company that issues Amber Alerts
A Sept. 14 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) claims a former socialite serving a 20-year prison sentence for sexually abusing children is tied to the system that helps authorities find children who were abducted.
“When you find out Ghislaine Maxwell’s sister owns the company that puts out Amber Alerts,” the post reads.
It was liked more than 10,000 times in 11 days.
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Our rating: False
Officials from both the nonprofit group that distributes Amber Alerts and the federal agency that runs the communications system that transmits them say the claim is false. Those alerts are issued by law enforcement agencies and disseminated by media outlets, government officials and a child advocacy group – not a "company."
Claim apparently confuses Commtouch, Comtech
Officials from a federal agency and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children both told USA TODAY the claim is false.
“Anyone who wishes to push the false narrative that someone in a private-sector role has any control over the Amber Alert program clearly has no concept of the policies and guidance in place at the local, state and federal law enforcement level, as well as the approvals needed to activate an Amber Alert to help a child,” said John E. Bischoff III, the vice president of the center’s missing children division.
The first Amber Alert was sent in 2006 when police in the Dallas-Fort Worth area partnered with broadcasters to create an early warning system to help find abducted children, according to the Department of Justice. It evolved to include messages on highway signs and cellphone notifications, and it has led to the recovery of more than 1,100 children in 27 years, the justice department said.
Local law enforcement agencies issue an alert only if an abduction meets certain criteria in their state, according to the Justice Department. They notify broadcasters and transportation officials who interrupt regular programming to broadcast the alert on radio, TV and highway signs.
Then, officials at the missing and exploited children's center are responsible for the secondary distribution of those alerts. That process includes sending wireless alerts through the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System, a centralized system administered by the Federal Emergency Management Association to distribute those messages to the public.
“No one entity is tasked with putting out emergency alerts,” FEMA spokesperson Jeremy Edwards said in an email to USA TODAY.
The claim appears to confuse two similarly named companies, one of which produces technology that helps to transmit some of those wireless alerts.
Maxwell was convicted of helping financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse children. Her sister, Isabel Maxwell, held leadership positions with three tech companies and was the president emeritus of Commtouch, an Israel-based email security firm founded by former Israeli soldiers. It changed its name to Cyren in 2014, and ceased operations in February.
Its original name bore a resemblance to Comtech, a publicly traded New York-based communications company that produces equipment that helps deliver wireless emergency alerts. But none of Maxwell’s sisters hold leadership positions at the company, and there is no credible evidence of any connections linking those firms to any of the Maxwells.
USA TODAY has debunked several false claims related to Maxwell, including assertions that her father owns textbook firm McGraw Hill and that she was photographed with the judge who approved the search warrant that allowed FBI agents to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
USA TODAY reached out to a spokesperson for the Maxwell family, a spokesperson for Comtech and the social media user who shared the post but did not immediately receive responses.
Our fact-check sources:
John E. Bischoff III, Sept. 21, Phone interview with USA TODAY
Jeremy Edwards, Sept. 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Department of Justice, Oct. 20, 2019, Frequently Asked Questions
Department of Justice, Oct. 20, 2019, Secondary Distribution of AMBER Alerts
Department of Justice, Oct. 20, 2019, Wireless Emergency Alert
FEMA, Aug. 3, Integrated Public Alert & Warning System
FEMA, April 12, Wireless Emergency Alerts
Ready, Feb. 3, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs)
The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, accessed Sept. 22, Isabel Maxwell
Wired, Feb. 1, 1999, On The Net, No One Knows You’re a Maxwell
The Telegraph, Dec. 30, 2021, The stranger-than-fiction history of the Maxwell madhouse
Comtech, accessed Sept. 22, Comtech Trusted Alert System from Comtech Trusted Location
Comtech, accessed Sept. 25, Leadership
Softpedia, Jan. 7, 2014, Commtouch Changes Its Name to CYREN
Yahoo Finance, Feb. 22, Cyren Announces Liquidation
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No link between Maxwell's sister, Amber Alert 'company' | Fact check