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Facebook Safety Check (sometimes called Facebook Crisis Response) is a feature managed by the social networking company Facebook. The feature is activated by the company during natural or man-made disasters and terror-related incidents to quickly determine whether people in the affected geographical area are safe.
The feature was developed by Facebook engineers, inspired by people's use of social media to connect with friends and family in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Originally named the Disaster Message Board, it was renamed to Safety Check prior to release. It was introduced on October 15, 2014. Its first major deployment was on Saturday, April 25, 2015, in the wake of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. The tool was deployed again in the wake of the May 2015 Nepal earthquake, during Pacific Hurricane Patricia in October 2015, and during the November 2015 Paris attacks, the latter being the first time the tool was used in response to a non-natural disaster. On March 22, 2016, during reports of explosions at an airport and train station in Brussels, the feature was turned on again, but there was a delay in turning it on after it was revealed it was a suicide bomber attack.
On June 2, 2016, Facebook announced that it would start experimenting with community-activated Safety Checks. With the new system, Safety Check would be activated based on combination of a certain number of people posting about a particular crisis plus an alert from one of Facebook’s third-party sources. Users would also be able to share and spread the word about the Safety Check once it was activated. Facebook hoped the changes would lead to more consistent, frequent, and streamlined deployments around the world.
On February 8, 2017, Facebook introduced a Community Help feature to the Safety Check crisis response tool. It allows users to search through categorized posts, offer local assistance, and connect with providers over Facebook Messenger. In June 2017, Facebook announced several updates to Safety Check, including the Community Help feature coming to desktops. It was also made possible for users to start fundraisers from within Safety Check.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, an earthquake struck Nepal, with an estimated loss of a few thousand lives. Within a few hours of the earthquake hitting, Facebook had activated Safety Check in the region. It identified users as possibly being in the affected area by their current city as listed on their profile, as well as the place from which they had most recently accessed Facebook. The desktop version of Safety Check also provided a brief synopsis of the event and emergency contact numbers.
During the activation more than 7 million people in the affected area were marked safe, which generated notifications to over 150 million friends on the platform.
Facebook deployed the feature during November 2015 Paris attacks. This was the first time Facebook activated the feature for a violent attack (or any non-natural disaster), mentioning that the policy for activation and the product itself is an ongoing work in progress.
|Nigeria||Boko Haram bombings (late November 2015)||||Announcing the activation on his Facebook timeline, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that unfortunately, incidents like this were all too common and he would not announce individual activations of Safety Check in the future. However, he urged people to be optimistic and realize that the frequency of such incidents was going down on the whole.|
|Chennai, India||2015 South Indian floods|||
|Ankara, Turkey||February 2016 Ankara bombing|||
|Ankara, Turkey||March 2016 Ankara bombing|||
|Brussels, Belgium||2016 Brussels bombings (March 22, 2016)|||
|Lahore, Pakistan||2016 Lahore bombing||||Facebook accidentally sent notifications asking whether users were safe to Facebook users around the world, even those who were nowhere near Pakistan.|
|Orlando area, Florida, United States||Orlando nightclub shooting (June 12, 2016)||||First operational use in the United States.|
|Antananarivo, Madagascar||Explosion in Mahamasina Municipal Stadium, Antananarivo (June 26, 2016)|||
|Istanbul, Turkey||2016 Atatürk Airport attack|||
|Dallas, Texas, United States||2016 shooting of Dallas police officers|||
|Nice, France||2016 Nice attack|||
|Munich, Germany||2016 Munich shooting at OEZ (July 22, 2016)|||
|Quetta, Pakistan||8 August 2016 Quetta bombing|||
|Gothenburg, Sweden||Hand grenade attack on apartment building that killed an 8-year-old boy (August 22, 2016)|||
|Central Italy||August 2016 Central Italy earthquake (August 24, 2016)|||
|Tel Aviv, Israel||The Building Collapse in Tel Aviv (September 5, 2016)||||Facebook activated it in a small distribution as a pilot in order to expand the feature.|
|Davao City, Philippines||2016 Davao City bombing (September 2, 2016)|||
|New York City, United States||2016 Chelsea bombing|||
|Hoboken, New Jersey, United States||2016 Hoboken train crash at Hoboken Terminal (September 29, 2016)|||
|Kaikoura, Blenheim, Christchurch, Wellington, New Zealand.||2016 Kaikoura earthquake (November 14, 2016)|||
|Haifa, Israel||November 2016 Israel fires (November 24, 2016)||||First operational use in Israel.|
|Columbus, Ohio, United States||Ohio State University attack (November 28, 2016)|||
|Gatlinburg, Tennessee, United States||2016 Wildfire in Gatlinburg area (November 28, 2016)|||
|Oakland, California, United States||2016 Oakland warehouse fire (December 2, 2016)|||
|Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States||10-Alarm fire in residential neighborhood (December 4, 2016)|||
|Chennai, India||Cyclone Vardah hits India|||
|Gothenburg, Sweden||Hand grenade attack on apartment building (December 15, 2016)|||
|Berlin, Germany||2016 Berlin attack (December 19, 2016)|||
|Jerusalem, Israel||January 2017 Jerusalem vehicular attack (January 8, 2017)|||
|Jersey Village, Texas, United States||Jersey Village Texas Tornado (January 16, 2017)|||
|Playa del Carmen, Mexico||l’incident violent à Playa del Carmen (January 16, 2017)|||
|Christchurch, New Zealand||Port Hills Wildfire (February 13, 2017)|||
|London, United Kingdom||2017 Westminster attack (March 22, 2017)|||
|Saint-Petersburg, Russia||2017 Saint Petersburg Metro attack (April 3, 2017)||||First operational use in Russia|
|Stockholm, Sweden||2017 Stockholm attack (April 7, 2017)|||
|Manchester, England||2017 Manchester Arena bombing (May 22, 2017)|||
|Pernambuco, Brazil||2017 Pernambuco and Alagoas Floods (May 27, 2017)|||
|London, England||June 2017 London attack (June 03, 2017)|||
|Cape Town, South Africa||June 2017 Storm||||First operational use in South Africa|
|Knysna, South Africa||June 2017 Wildfires|||
|London, England||Grenfell Tower fire (June 14, 2017)|||
|Split, Croatia||The Wildfire in Split (June 16–18, 2017)||||First operational use in Croatia|
|Barcelona, Spain||2017 Barcelona attacks (August 17, 2017)|||
|Turku, Finland||Turku stabbing (August 18, 2017)||||First operational use in Finland|
|Hong Kong and Macao||Typhoon Hato (August 22, 2017)||||First operational use in Hong Kong and Macao|
|Romania||The Storm in Western Romania (September 17, 2017)||||First operational use in Romania|
|Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||2017 Las Vegas shooting (October 1, 2017)|||
|Czech Republic, Germany, Poland||Storm Herwart (October 29, 2017)||  |
|Surabaya, Indonesia||2018 Surabaya bombings (May 13, 2018)||||First operational use in Indonesia|
Upon the release of Safety Check, Richard Lawler wrote in Engadget praising the tool, writing "[I]t can take some pressure off of overloaded infrastructure with everyone trying to call affected areas after disasters hit, and of course, save you from a post-tragedy chewing out for failure to let people know you're fine." On the flip side, he posited that Safety Check might be "a cagey way to try to take some of the creepiness out of the apps' location tracking features".
Commentators praised Facebook Safety Check in the wake of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake and compared it to Google Person Finder, a tool by Google with a similar purpose. However, commentators noted that due to low penetration of mobile devices and poor network connectivity in the region (which had worsened due to the earthquake), many of the people in the target audience of the tool would not be able to use it. This was likened to similar problems faced by Google Person Finder during the 2010 Pakistan floods.
After the May 2015 Nepal earthquake, BuzzFeed reported that many users outside the geographical area affected by the earthquake were marking themselves as safe using the tool, and that this was angering other users who thought they were being insensitive to the toll and tragedy of the event. The story was picked up by other publications including the Huffington Post and fact-checking website Snopes, which noted that this was due to a bug in Facebook leading it to prompt people outside the affected area to confirm whether they were safe.