Facebook launched its safety check tool to help the victims and their friends and family during the terrorist attacks in Paris. While the users appreciated the efforts of Facebook to help people, it also faced serious questions. Several people from all over the world questioned the motive of Facebook, as the same feature was not deployed during other such incidents in other parts of the world.
The attacks in Paris are similar to the attack in Mumbai that happened a few years ago. At least 129 people were killed during the unfortunate incident. Large numbers of visitors and residents of Paris used Facebook and other social media to stay connected with the loved ones even during tough times. They used social networks to inform whether they are safe or injured.
Inception of safety check tool
Facebook first created the safety check tool in 2011 during the tsunami to help people stay connected in times of disaster. This tool was also extensively used during the Fukishima nuclear plant disasters. People used the Facebook tool to inform the loved ones about their whereabouts. This helped everyone to understand the real danger and send help quickly.
Usability of safety check
The Vice President of Facebook, Alex Schultz mentioned in a post that the tool uses scope, scale and impact during natural disasters. He added that it is impossible to use the tool completely during the time of war or epidemic because the tool is still immature and it can be difficult to declare someone to be truly safe in highly stressful conditions. He also admitted his concern that the safety check feature was not activated during the Beirut attack that happened just a few days before the attacks on Paris.
The principal analyst at Pund-IT, Charles King said that even though the safety check tool is an interesting feature, it would lose its charm in global perspective. There are 1 billion Facebook users, but they only contribute to 15% of the population.
Even before the introduction of Facebook feature, social media is used for crowd sourcing during emergencies. In 2007, various staff and students used social media to inform the authorities and others that they were safe during the Virginia Tech mass shooting. In a recent research conducted by the Buffalo School of management, it was found that social media can greatly help students to feel safer in crisis situations. Google and American Red Cross also used social media to establish accountability systems.
The importance of using safety check
Facebook still has no answers as to why the safety check feature was used for Paris attacks and not for other incidents. The Safe and Well app created by Red Cross was active during the Katrina hurricane. More than 450 people were located and rescued using the app during Boston Marathon bombing. Experts suggest that to improve its reputation, Facebook should be sensitive to world incidents instead of trying to capitalize on traumatizing events. Otherwise, the company will be easily mistaken, even though it may function with the best intentions.