Just after the Paris attacks on Friday a new notification possibility appeared on Facebook. Users who were in the targeted areas could tell their loved ones that they were safe simply by tapping on the “I’m safe” button the Safety Check feature offered them. If they weren’t near the areas where the attacks were conducted, they could simply reassure their loved ones of their safety bu stating that they were elsewhere. This seems to be a feature that could come in extremely handy when there are major catastrophes, such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, or in the case of terrorist attacks, like it was the case on Friday. In these kinds of moments, telecommunications usually can’t face the demand, signal drops and users can’t communicate, making their loved ones extremely impatient. The Facebook feature allows them to let their friends know they are OK, so they don’t have to worry anymore.
Although the Safety Check notification is incredibly useful, and the fact that Facebook decided to make it available after the Paris attacks made it possible for a lot of people to calm their loved ones, the first criticisms didn’t take a long time to show up. Some people were incredibly unsatisfied by the fact that it was used after the Paris attacks, but it wasn’t made available after the twin suicide bombings in Beirut, saying that Facebook considered it more important to make it available for the Western European countries than for the Western Asian ones.
Facebook chose to answer these allegations on Saturday in a blog post in which they showed that the Safety Check was first created with natural disasters in mind and ever since the first version of the tool was developed in October of 2014, it was only activated when these kinds of events occurred. The notifications were activated following a set of earthquakes, tropical cyclones and a typhoon. According to the representatives of the social network, each time the tool was activated, they had the chance to further improve it. As for the reason why they decided to activate the notifications feature following the Paris attacks even though there weren’t any natural disaster, they stated that there was an incredibly intense Facebook activity in the area following the attacks and that at the moment it seemed appropriate for them to activate the notifications. This way people could let everyone know that they were all right in a much simpler way than posting reports on their Facebook pages.
It was the first time they thought of activating the tool in cases other than natural disasters and they will probably use these notifications in similar cases in the future. It has nothing to do with how they evaluate life or the fact that they think that European lives are more valuable than Asian ones, it just wasn’t used before in similar cases and this was a first. According to the aforementioned blog post, the activation of the tool following the Paris attacks will change the company’s policy around the tool and the situations in which they will activate it in the future. It probably will be activated in similar tragic situations, helping people to stay in touch with their friends and family in difficult moments.
Since we’ve seen first hand the effect of these Safety Check notifications, having friends in Paris who were in the affected area, we hope that Facebook will activate their tool in every situation the safety of a large number of people is jeopardized. It is extremely reassuring to see that our loved ones are all right, instead of worrying because we can’t get a hold of them.