Since 2014, Facebook has quietly offered Safety Check, a crisis response tool that lets users in areas struck by natural disasters or other emergencies to confirm their safety on the social network. Originally, Facebook itself had to activate a Safety Check, but that has changed; the power to activate a safety check is now in the hands of the stricken community.
One of the most stressful times for people with family or friends in an area where a disaster has taken place, is not knowing if affected friends and loved ones are safe. Safety Check was created to reduce the fear of this unknown by giving users a simple way to confirm they are okay, and to check in to make sure the people they care about are safe as well. With Facebook in total control of the tool’s activation, this feature was put into effect a total of 39 times worldwide between December of 2014 and December of 2015.
That number was clearly far too low given all the disasters around the world. As a result, Facebook took steps to put the power to activate Safety Check in the hands of those who would need it most -- the communities affected by the crisis in question.
Utilizing a two-step system, Facebook will first receive confirmation that an event is taking place through a network of third-party organizations, and then analyze the online chatter by the community in the affected area to determine if Safety Check is warranted. Since first being tested in June 0f 2016, this fully-automated process has been put to use 328 times.
Disasters, unfortunately, are a terrible fact of life on this planet. It is difficult to be prepared for everything that comes, but with tools like Facebook’s Safety Check, we can at least be spared many anxious hours of waiting by knowing that our loved ones are safe.
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