Facebook: Checking Up and Checking In

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Posted on November 17, 2015, at 2:45 p.m.
by Sally Immel.

The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday night left “The City of Light” in the dark, and the rest of the world in a state of despair. While loved ones frantically watched the news, praying that each ambulance wasn’t holding someone they knew, Facebook came to the rescue by activating “Safety Check.”

 

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Safety Check is a feature that is used to notify friends of your safety and check on other friends during a disaster. With location settings, Facebook can see if you are near a disaster and ask if you are safe in your notifications. Users in a danger zone can then tap the “I’m Safe” button to let friends know right away. Users can also scroll through a list of friends who may be near the disaster area to see who has verified their safety, and who has not.

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After the Paris attacks, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Our policy was 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.”

Safety Check, launched in October 2014, was originally used for people to get in touch during the aftermath of a natural disaster. Facebook noticed that people were using the social media platform to reassure friends of their safety in Paris and knew that Safety Check needed to expand its activation to other types of disasters.

Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz said on the “Facebook Safety” page, “Each time we have launched the tool, we’ve improved it. We saw spam abuse with the tool in some launches, [sic] in others it has overwhelmed our notification systems because of the huge numbers of people wanting to tell their friends they are safe. We are learning to make the tool and policies behind it better as we go — and because Safety Check is a relatively new feature for us, we’re still understanding how it can best be used and in what instances.”

Communication is key during a time of crisis. With the activation of Safety Check, Facebook has provided a tool to make the connection easier for users to check up on the ones they care about the most.

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