According to a company blog post, Facebook started developing Safety Check after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan as a way for people to “check on loved ones and get updates.” October 2014 was when the latest version of the tool was launched in a form of a notification system after natural disasters.
In response to the Paris terror attacks that killed 129 people and injured 352, Facebook turned on Safety Check which is the first time it has been used in response to a crisis caused by human activity.
Facebook however, drew sharp criticism in the aftermath as to why didn’t activate its Safety Check feature where two suicide bombers killed 43 people and wounded hundreds of others in Beirut, Lebanon.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook was quick to respond to these criticisms in a comment added to a status update:
“Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places. 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. Here’s more detail on Safety Check and our policy for deploying it from the Facebook Safety page:
Thank you to everyone who has reached out with questions and concerns about this. You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world. We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
Facebook’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz, said that the company will activate Safety Check for “serious and tragic incidents in the future.”
Facebook considers the scale, scope and impact of a natural disaster when it decides whether to activate Safety Check and this is what Schultz wrote. After earthquakes in Nepal, Afghanistan and Chile, as well in the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines and Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific are 5 incidents in 2015 in which Facebook has activated the tool.
He further stressed that the tool, “has helped many people stay in touch with their friends and family during difficult times. We’re going to continue working to make it better and more useful.”
Schultz adds, “We create products that we think will help people and we work hard to perfect the solution over time.”