In the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning, Facebook activated its “Safety Check” feature, which allows users who live in the vicinity of an area affected by a mass casualty event or terrorist attack to check in and say they are safe, making it easier for friends and family members to confirm that their loved ones are alive during the chaotic first hours after an emergency event.
Facebook had previously activated the tool during events in France, Belgium, Pakistan, Nigeria, and India, but this is the first time it has been used in the United States.
“We hope the people in the area find the tool a helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay,” Facebook said in a statement.
They noted that the activation was generated by Facebook users this time. “Following the community-generated Safety Check activation this morning in Orlando, we have now activated Facebook-initiated Safety Check,” Facebook’s statement said.
At least 50 people were killed and many more wounded in the attack on the Pulse nightclub that began around 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Next page: Why some are concerned about Facebook’s selective activation of the system.
Facebook has faced criticism for its selective activation of the system, most recently for its failure to do so during the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
From The Jerusalem Post:
In a blog posted November 15, 2015, Facebook’s VP of growth, Alex Schultz, laid out the criteria under which the tool would be deployed.
For natural disasters, it would depend on the “scope, scale and impact” of the event.
“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 impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe,’” he wrote.
In other words, barring a mass casualty event, Israel may be left off the safety check list because terrorism is frequent. In Chicago, when 64 people were shot over Memorial Day weekend leaving six dead, and in the recent shooting incident at UCLA, the tool also remained unused. The company has also said, however, that it is still learning how to best deploy the tool, and has been sensitive to criticism in the past.
However, individuals who were concerned about their loved ones in the wake of the horrific attack on the gay nightclub Sunday morning praised Safety Check for helping them to connect with friends.
I’ve had three friends check-in as safe in Orlando with Facebook’s Safety Check. Arguably the most impressive feature on FB.
— Sean Agnew (@seanagnew) June 12, 2016
Thank God facebook had that safety check thing, all my florida friends seem to be safe
— Cecil (@MDmatsu) June 12, 2016