Zuckerberg Under Fire For Activating ‘Safety Checks’ During Paris Bombings

Abby Deardorff Contributor
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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg received backlash after activating a feature on the social media site that let people mark they were safe during the Paris attacks Friday. The feature had previously only been used during natural disasters, calling into question whether the choice showed selective solidarity.

Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook defending the company’s choice. He addressed the claims saying many people have “rightfully asked” why the website did not use this feature for other major incidences, citing the Beirut bombings the day before. He responded, “Until yesterday, our policy was only 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.”

Fox News reported that over four million users marked themselves safe during the Paris attacks, and the feature sent out more than 360 million notifications letting others know they were unharmed.

Facebook executive Alex Schultz released an updated version of the policy regarding the check-in feature on the Facebook Safety page Saturday. The post explained the choice, saying Facebook has become a place of sharing information and lets users tell their loved ones they were safe. The company plans to activate the tool “whenever and wherever it can help.”

The Facebook Newsroom’s release of the feature states, “…we hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.” The tool works by sending a notification to any profile in the impacted area, and asks if that person is okay.

The feature had been used more recently during the earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal as well as Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines. (RELATED: Facebook To Unveil ‘Dislike’ Button Intended For Sad Statuses)

“…We will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can,” Zuckerberg said. The CEO also sported the new profile filter featuring the French flag.

“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,” Schultz said.