Facebook’s Safety Check feature now rests solely in the hands of its users

Facebook users no longer need to rely on the social network to activate its main crisis response tool. Facebook announced the shift at its first Social Good Forum in New York on Thursday. If enough people are posting about an incident in a given area (using the keyword "earthquake," for example), Facebook will automatically notify those users and ask if they're OK. A user can mark themselves as safe, and then prompt friends to do the same, instead of Facebook sending notifications to everyone in that city or region. Users have triggered the tool themselves 328 times. Gleit said people have long used Facebook to check on each other, and the Safety Check feature was created to make that process easier. "We partner with a bunch of third-party organizations that receive verified accounts of events happening — everything from a wildfire to an earthquake to a tsunami ... and to violent events and bridge collapses," he told Mashable. He did, however, underline the importance of Safety Check, and said that nearly half of Facebook users in Italy used the tool in the aftermath of a major earthquake that killed 247 people just days earlier. While a community-activated Safety Check feature could mean better precision and empowering users to take action, it also seems to relieve some of Facebook's responsibilities with the product. Cottle and Gleit acknowledged that now making Safety Check completely community-triggered would avoid such situations, but they emphasized that the decision for the change was to ultimately give the power to people who need the tool most. "Those are the people using it at the end of the day."

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Facebook users no longer need to rely on the social network to activate its main crisis response tool.
Safety Check, which lets you tell friends and family that you’re safe during an emergency situation or natural disaster, will now be completely triggered by the community instead of the company itself. Facebook announced the shift at its first Social Good Forum in New York on Thursday.
If enough people are posting about an incident in a given area (using the keyword “earthquake,” for example), Facebook will automatically notify those users and ask if they’re OK. A user can mark themselves as safe, and then prompt friends to do the same, instead of Facebook sending notifications to everyone in that city or region.

Image: Facebook


Launched publicly in 2014, the Safety Check feature has been activated by Facebook 39 times around the world, from the Philippines' Typhoon Ruby in December 2014 to the Paris terror attacks in December 2015. In June 2016, Facebook began testing community-triggered Safety Checks, like in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and protests against police brutality in Charlotte, North Carolina. Users have triggered the tool themselves 328 times.

“We believe people closest to a disaster should play a bigger
role in deciding when Safety Check is most helpful.”


The big difference in those numbers, Facebook argues, proves the company isn't able to know when to launch the tool every time it's needed.
"We believe people closest to a disaster should play a bigger role in deciding when Safety Check is most helpful," Naomi Gleit, Facebook's VP of Social Good, wrote in a post announcing the change. "So today, Safety Check will be turned on by the community instead of Facebook."
Gleit said people have long used Facebook to check on each other, and the Safety Check feature was created to make that process easier. Now, users will be able to...

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