Facebook Responds to Critics After Using Safety Check Feature for Paris Attacks

PHOTO: A Facebook log is displayed on the screen of an iPad on May 16, 2012 taken in New York. Facebook Inc. is launching a tool called "Safety Check," that lets users notify friends and family that they are safe during or after natural disasters. PlayJames H. Collins/AP Photo
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Facebook has responded to criticism it received after some users questioned why a safety check was activated for the attack on Paris but not for bombings in Beirut.

Facebook rolled out the Safety Check feature on Friday after the six-pronged attack in Paris left 129 dead and more than 300 injured. Facebook users in the Paris area were able to check in and alert those in their network that they were safe.

Although many users found the tool helpful and gave positive feedback, others criticized it for not being used when twin bombings in a southern Beirut suburb in Lebanon left 43 dead and many more wounded.

Users took to Twitter to express their frustration with the selective use of the feature.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook in a comment on his page Saturday saying, "Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well."

He directed users to a post on the Facebook safety page written on Saturday by Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz.

In the post, Schultz explained that before Friday, the safety check has only ever been used for natural disasters, including earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal, Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines. Because of "a lot of activity on Facebook as the events were unfolding," Schultz said they decided to use it for something other than a natural disaster for the first time.

"In the middle of a complex, uncertain situation affecting many people, Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones," 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."

Schultz said the feature is a "work in progress," but that Facebook will explore how it can help people show support for the things they care about.