Facebook released a Safety Check tool on Friday to allow those who were located in the city of Paris to check in and let their Facebook friends know they were safe. A large number of Facebook users reported that they benefited from the tool. However, the company is receiving widespread criticism because Facebook did not activate the tool for other terror attacks around the world earlier in the week.
The company also received some criticism about its photo filter that allowed its users to show support for France, but it did not also give the option for other countries when they were attacked. Critics have said the company needs to include “all affected nations.”
As a global company, Facebook is subject to encounter the sensitivities of many of its users around the world. There is a large opportunity for certain users to feel their group or nation is not important enough for the multinational company, which is how many are surely feeling after the Safety Check tool was launched for Paris’ terrorist attacks.
“Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his private Facebook page. He assured Facebook users that the tool would be activated more frequently in the future during human disasters.
The Safety Check tool
Many people probably didn’t see the Safety Check tool and many have not even seen it on their news feeds because they didn’t know anyone in Paris. The tool allows people to click a button and let their Facebook friends know that they are okay during a human disaster.
The earliest version of the tool was used during the tsunami in Tokyo in 2011. It has also been used during earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile, Nepal and other countries.
Facebook’s vice president Alex Schultz said that the use of the tool is determined by the disaster’s scope, scale and impact. Prior to the terror attack in Paris on Friday, Facebook had only used the tool for natural disasters. The company decided to use the Safety Check tool during a terror attack for the first time in Paris after they observed that “Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones,” said Schultz.
After speaking with its employees on the ground, the company decided that there was a need that it could fill. They decided to enact the tool for use during the terror attack. This activation changes when the tool will be used moving forward. It will now likely pop up on your news feed during other serious and tragic events in the future as well (both natural and human disasters). “We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help,” said Schultz.
Facebook engineers cautioned that the tool may not be as useful in human disasters or terror attacks because there isn’t a clear beginning and end point. It is often impossible during terror attacks, acts of war and other crisis to know when you are safe.
For now, the Safety Check for Paris’ attacks have been turned off, although the attacks may not be over. It is unclear how Facebook will handle future occurrences, but there will be protocol and more people will be able to check in with friends and family and let them know they are okay, no matter where they are.