Facebook Broadens Safety Check Feature Beyond Paris Attacks
As the extent of last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris became clear, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature to allow users to let friends and family online to know that they were safe. Launched last October, Safety Check had only been used during natural disasters -- until now.
While many people acknowledged the feature's usefulness in the wake of the Paris attacks, others have criticized Facebook for not activating the feature after another terrorist attack that happened just a day earlier in Beirut. A double suicide bombing in the Lebanese capital killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 others.
Accusations of a double standard prompted online responses from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alex Schultz, the company's vice president of growth. Zuckerberg noted that Facebook has changed its policy and will implement Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.
Safety Check a 'Work in Progress'
"Since we activated Safety Check in Paris, we have heard positive feedback about how reassuring it is to receive notifications that a friend or loved one is safe," Schultz wrote in a Saturday update on the Facebook Safety page. "But people are also asking why we turned on Safety Check in Paris and not other parts of the world, where violence is more common and terrible things happen with distressing frequency. Thursday's tragedy in Beirut is one recent example."
Noting that Safety Check is a "work in progress," Schultz said that Facebook will "continue working to make it better and more useful." He added that the company will learn a lot from feedback on this launch and will also look at other ways to allow people to show their support during disasters and other tragic events.
Such support tools include a feature that lets users overlay their profile pictures with symbols of support -- in this case, an image of the French flag. Facebook introduced that overlay option this summer with a rainbow flag filter to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality.
'We Care About All People Equally'
While Safety Check has been officially available for more than a year, the tool had its roots in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. Facebook engineers in Japan saw a need for people to let others know they were OK, so they created a disaster message board to make online communications easier.
A test of the new tool was launched a year later and "the response was overwhelming," according to Facebook's October 15, 2014 announcement on the formal release of Safety Check.
When it is activated by Facebook, the Safety Check tool sends notifications to users who -- based on their profile information and last location updates in the Nearby Friends feature -- might be in an area affected by a disaster or tragic event. Users can then respond by indicating that they are either outside the affected area or select an "I'm Safe" option. Selecting the latter option will generate a notification and News Feed story to let the users' Facebook friends know that they are safe.
"You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world. We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can," Zuckerberg said after hearing criticism about Facebook's activation of Safety Check for the Paris attacks but not for those in Beirut the previous day.
Posted: 2015-11-16 @ 10:18pm PT
A good and important step by FB in the ongoing incidents by ISIS