The largest social network activated its Safety Check tool during the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris on Friday, which helped a lot of people in assuring their friends and family about their safety. Amidst criticism from other countries, Facebook said that it would activate it more widely. Nevertheless, deciding when to activate the Safety Check feature could push into some really sensitive territory. Before Friday, this particular tool introduced by Facebook had enabled users in a specific area to highlight themselves as ‘safe’ on their profiles in the event of natural disasters. According to a spokeswoman, within 24 hours, the feature had been used by about 4.1 million people.
Another option was introduced by Facebook in the wake of the Paris attacks, which involved overlaying Facebook profile pictures with the French flag colors in order to show support for the country in this difficult time. The feature was highly appreciated by lots of users on social media, but it also paved way for a horde of questions. People wanted to know why the social network hadn’t activated this feature in other cases, which included the suicide bombings in Beirut, Lebanon on Thursday, just a day before the Paris tragedy. The criticism was acknowledged by a Facebook executive in a blog post on Saturday.
The executive said that the social network would refine when the Safety Check tool, which was introduced back in October 2014, could be used in the future. The vice president of growth at Facebook, Alex Schultz said that people had been questioning why this particular tool wasn’t turned on for other areas where disasters and other terrible things happen with great frequency. He asserted that there was a first time of doing everything, even if it is for sensitive and complex cases, and Paris was that time for Facebook.
However, this decision simply leads the social networking giant into a huge minefield as they have to decide which violence situations and terror attacks deserve the activation of the tool. According to some experts, it isn’t going to be easy for Facebook to make these decisions because they will have to decide what is tragic and serious and what is not and this could offend a lot of people. The social network said that the Safety Check tool was activated during the Paris incident because there had been a lot of activity on Facebook as the attacks unfolded.
The Facebook executive said that in some circumstances, the tool wouldn’t be useful like an epidemic or war because it is impossible to ascertain who is completely safe. Before Friday, the tool had been turned on five times due to earthquakes in Chile, Afghanistan, Nepal and tropical storms in the South Pacific and Philippines. When this feature is activated, a message is sent to users by Facebook asking them if they are safe. The tool can be used for indicating on profiles whether they are safe or not.