Following this morning terrorist attacks in Brussels, Facebook has once again enabled its “Safety Check” tool that marks people safe after a tragedy.
After being in the spotlight for the past several months in connection with the Paris attacks, Belgium has made headlines on March 22, 2016, with its own disaster.
The Brussels international airport and a city metro station have been bombed in what seems to be a coordinated terrorist attack; at least 34 people died.
Facebook’s Safety Check was enabled for the first time after the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, as the tool was meant to offer people a way to communicate after natural disasters. Zuckerberg’s idea was to allow users to find and connect with friends who might have been affected by the calamity in the area.
If you access the Safety Check page, you can see a list of friends who live in Brussels, meaning that they’ve set it as their current city. You can post on their timelines, asking them if they’re unharmed, or just mark them safe if you already know they’re alright.
Whenever the tool was enabled, it also provided some background information about the tragedy, keeping users in the loop with the events. This time, the description says that “Reports indicate multiple explosions at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels, as well as at least one metro station in the city.”
We also know that the airport has been shut down and its incoming flights diverted to the southern airport Charleroi or Amsterdam. At the same time, the metro, bus, and tram systems have been shut down citywide in an attempt to prevent further attacks
Before November 13 – the fateful date of the Paris attacks – Safety Check had only been used to connect people in natural emergencies, such as earthquakes or hurricanes. But after the attacks in the French capital, the social network decided it was time to activate it during other kinds of tragedies as well.
That decision received some criticism as people pointed out that Facebook did not enable Safety Check in the wake of the suicide bombs that happened in Beirut, Lebanon just a day earlier.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded by saying that the tool was “a work in progress” and that the social network will start using it for more “human disasters” from that point on.
Alex Schultz, Vice President of Growth at Facebook, replied to the comments in a separate blog post, explaining that Safety Check is not as useful “during an ongoing crisis,” due to the lack of a definite end point.
Image Source: Bloomberg