In the hours following the wave of violence in Paris, many were left wondering whether their friends and family were hurt in the attacks.
One place thousands of people checked for information? Facebook. Parisians used the social network’s “safety check” feature to let others know they were unharmed. Users with friends in Paris were notified of their status with a green checkmark.
“Quickly find and connect with friends in the area. Mark them safe if you know they’re OK,” the safety page reads.
Facebook rolled out the feature last year. The company has used the safety check during natural disasters, such as the deadly earthquake in Nepal in April, but Paris marked the first time it was turned on after an attack. The decision sparked outrage from some users who felt violence in their cities wasn’t given the same attention.
One day before the Paris attacks, a double suicide bombing in Beirut killed more than 30 people and wounded more than 200 others one day before. With Paris in mind, Lebanese users wondered why their disaster didn’t receive the same treatment.
“No Facebook safety check or Obama address for #Beirut yesterday,” one user Tweeted. “Sad but true.”
And to answer many comments: yes, global outrage is selective. No Facebook safety check or Obama address for #Beirut yesterday.Sad but true.— Mohamed El Dahshan (@eldahshan) November 14, 2015
I must admit that I’m a little confused as to why Safety Check was enabled in Paris and not in Beirut.— Eleanor Saitta (@Dymaxion) November 14, 2015
Facebook also added an option for users to add a French flag overlay to their profile image; there was no Lebanese overlay on Thursday.
In a statement on Saturday, Facebook called its safety check a “relatively new feature.”
“The product will continue to evolve as we learn more about how it’s used during different crises,” the company said, according to the International Business Times. “We hope to never be confronted with a situation like this again, but if we are, we are of course open to activating the tool given how reassuring it has been for people in Paris.”
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