As a result of recent events, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced the social media site will enable a “Safety Check” for all disasters. The announcement was made following the attacks made in Paris.
On Saturday, Nov. 14th, Zuckerberg explained via his Facebook page it was the first time the social media site enabled Safety Check for a human disaster. He wrote, “Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places. Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.”
The company explains further details of the new policy on the Facebook Safety page. Alex Schultz, Vice President of Growth, said, “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. I personally have received several from people I know and love and have felt first hand the impact of this tool. 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. I wanted to give some more background on the tool itself, its history and why we made the decision we did.”
The Safety Check in first debuted in 2011 during the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake that occurred in Tokyo, which according to the Japanese Red Cross more than 12.5 million people were affected nationwide, and more than 400,000 people were evacuated. During that crisis a number of Facebook employees came together to deploy the ‘Disaster Message Board’ to make it easier to communicate with other. Since then, each time the tool has been activated the company has improved it. For example in the early stages, the company saw spam abuse with the tool in some launches and in others it has overwhelmed its notification systems. While Facebook will continue to improve the tool with every launch, the company will continue to activate the tool for other serious and tragic incidents in the future.
For those of you unaware, here’s how it works:
- When the tool is activated after a natural disaster and if you’re in the affected area, you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe.
- Facebook will determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet.
- If the company gets your location wrong, you can mark that you’re outside the affected area.
- If you’re safe, you can select “I’m Safe” and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.
- If you have friends in the area of a natural disaster and the tool has been activated, you will receive a notification about those friends that have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on this notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show you a list of their updates.
Featured photo courtesy of Facebook