- The Washington Times
Monday, November 16, 2015

Facebook rolled out its “Safety Check” feature amid Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris — the first time the service was deployed outside of natural disasters.

The tool lets Facebook users tell friends and family they are safe.

“In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates,” the company said in a blog post announcing the feature last year.

“If you’re OK, click or tap the ‘I’m Safe’ button to let friends and loved ones know right away,” explains the instruction. Once a user is marked as such, online acquaintances can rest assured without attempting to make contact in the midst of a tragedy.

But Facebook is taking heat for waiting until last week to use “Safety Check” in the event of a terrorist attack. 

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is acknowledging the concerns of users who questioned why it hadn’t been made available after other attacks, including the bombing in Lebanon one day earlier.

“Until [Friday], 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,” Mr. Zuckerberg explained.

“We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can,” he said.

In downtown Paris and abroad, social media users reached out to friends and family in the wake of Friday’s attacks in hopes of confirming their safety as terrorists conducted strikes at a half-dozen sites. Within 10 hours of the attacks, Twitter users posted more than one million messages with the hashtag #PorteOuverte and variations thereof to open their doors to those affected, CNN reported.

Facebook started experimenting with its Safety Check feature in 2011, and within the last year had deployed it following earthquakes in locales including Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal.

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