Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has promised that the social network’s ‘Safety Check’ tool will be used more during disaster periods, after the company was accused of adopting a ‘western bias’ for not using the service in other regions.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks on Friday, many Parisians living in the city received a new type of notification from Facebook.
The social network activated a tool called Safety Check for the attacks, letting people in Paris tell their friends and that they were safe.
The tool, launched last year, works by triggering a push notification on devices that are near an affected area.
Facebook determines location from cities listed in profiles, last location from the Nearby Friends feature, or the city you’re connecting and using the internet from.
By hitting the ‘I’m safe’ button on the notification a News Feed story is generated automatically letting users see that someone is safe.
While the feature was helpful for many, some pointed to its use in Paris but not for other recent attacks, such as a twin suicide bombing that killed over 40 in Beirut on Thursday, as an example of Western bias that apparently values certain lives more than others.
On Saturday, Facebook saw fit to respond to those accusations in a blog post written by the company’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz.
In it, Schultz notes that this is the first time the company has enabled Safety Check for anything other than a natural disaster, events which the tool was originally designed for when it was released last year.
In a comment posted on Saturday, Zuckerberg said “you are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world” and added “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, also responded to the criticism in a blog post saying the Paris attacks were the first time that the feature had been enabled for anything other than a natural disaster, events which the tool was originally designed for.
Schultz said “there has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris.”
Discussing why the service hasn’t been used in places such as Beirut, Schultz argued tha “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.'”
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