The safety check feature isn’t actually a new one – Facebook has had it for more than a year – but it was only with the weekend’s attacks in Paris that notifications telling us ‘[insert name] was marked safe during Paris Terror Attacks’.
In Facebook’s own words, it’s a ‘simple and easy way to say you’re safe and check on others’ – and it also, for those of us on Friday night who weren’t watching TV, on Twitter or listening to the radio, broke the news that something awful had happened over in France.
And it worked – 4.1 million people checked in as safe in the first 24 hours after the news broke. Understandably, however, people are wondering why the feature didn’t spring into action for the Beirut suicide bombings that killed 43 people and injured 239 more last Thursday.
Alex Schultz, Facebook’s Vice President of Growth addressed the issue
‘In the case of natural disasters, we apply a set of criteria that includes the scope, scale, and impact. 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 impossibly to know when someone is truly ‘safe’. Each time we have launched the tool, we have improved it.
We chose to activate Safety Check in Paris because we observed a lot of activity on Facebook as events were unfolding… We talked with our employees on the ground, who felt that there was still a need that we could fill. So we make the decision to try something we’ve never done before: activation Safety Check for something other than a natural disaster.’
Seems like the problem is that there’s just too much crap going on in the world right now for Facebook to activate the feature for every time anything bad happens. And while it’s not the best explanation for why it can’t spring into action for isolated incidents in war zones (it should be available to tragic incidents like that in Beirut, surely), the company did admit that it’s a work in progress. So hopefully we’ll see it working more internationally in the future.
Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.