Facebook Explains Why It Activated the Safety Check Feature for Paris Attacks but Not Beirut


(Image credit: Archives)

Safety Check isn't a new feature for Facebook. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg introduced it (opens in new tab) to the social platform over a year ago. However, it wasn't until the Paris attacks on Friday night that many started noticing an unfamiliar notification confirming the safety status of their friends located in the area: "[Friend's Name] was marked safe during Paris Terror Attacks."

The tool allows users to check in on friends during a disaster or crisis. Facebook describes it (opens in new tab) as "a simple and easy way to say you're safe and check on others." Which was a welcome relief for those with friends and loved ones in or around Paris during the tragic attacks that took at least 129 lives and left 352 injured. According to The Huffington Post (opens in new tab), as of last night 4.1 million people had checked in as safe using the feature in the 24 hours since it launched.

Despite the positive impact of Safety Check in Paris, Facebook is receiving backlash in the aftermath for failing to introduce this feature for the Beirut suicide bombings (opens in new tab) that killed 43 people and wounded 239 more on Thursday.

In a Facebook post (opens in new tab) yesterday, Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz addressed the issue of why Safety Check was turned on in Paris and not in Beirut, "where violence is more common and terrible things happen with distressing frequency." He explains that Friday was the first time the feature had been implemented for something other than a natural disaster—the criteria for other life-threatening situations, such as wartime violence or epidemics, are not as easily defined.

Perhaps not the most satisfying explanation for critics of Facebook's decision. Even still, Schultz closes with a reminder that Safety Check is a work in progress, reassuring users that Facebook continues to work to make it a useful and effective tool for other serious incidents in the future.

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Sarah Lindig
Sarah Lindig

I am an experienced editor, writer, and creative strategist, specializing in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content for digital media outlets, as well as video and social platforms. While I currently operate as a freelance contributor/consultant, with such clients as The Zoe Report, my 10+-year background in the industry was cultivated at the dot-coms of elite publications, including Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, and Marie Claire.