Over a week has passed since the Paris terror attacks where Facebook decided to activate its safety check feature for those in the affected areas of France and while the feature in itself is welcomed, the decision on when to deploy the feature is facing some tough questioning.
Until the attacks in Paris, Facebook only used safety check for natural disasters like Hurricane Patricia and earthquakes in Nepal and Chile. However Facebook recently stated that the feature would be used more “in human disasters” going forward and that policy had been changed in Facebook to reflect.
Facebook is now facing questions after they decided not to activate safety check in Mali after gunmen took more than 100 people hostage in an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel. Facebook previously had been criticised for not using safety check after bombings in Beirut just one day before the terror attacks in Paris.
Gunmen in Mali took more than 150 hotel guests and employees hostage in an attack that left 27 dead however Facebook decided not to activate safety check for users in the area. Others questioned why there was no special profile filter released for Mali like they did after the Paris attacks.
Following attacks in Paris and the outpouring of grief towards what had happened, Facebook released a special photo filter of the French flag which could be applied to users profile pictures. However such a decision was not taken following events in Mali and people are raising questions as to why Facebook seems to show more support and empathy to one event and not another.
— Vanessa Wyeth (@vwyeth) November 20, 2015
Why didn't Facebook activate the safety check for Mali???
— Sidibe (@SidibeSings) November 20, 2015
More than 4 million Facebook users marked themselves as safe following the terrorist attacks in Paris and more than 360 million users received notifications about their friends being safe as a result of the feature.
Safety check was also activated in Nigeria on Wednesday last week after 32 people were killed in a bombing in the city of Yola.
Facebook head of growth Alex Schultz said that:
“During an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: Because there isn’t a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.’ “
It is unclear at the moment what the actual criteria are when the company comes to deciding if they should activate safety check or not during what they are describing as a “human disaster.” It may be something that Facebook will disclose in the future however at the moment it seems to be hit and miss when it comes to being used after terror attacks.