Mark Zuckerberg has promised that the Facebook Safety Check feature will be used more during disaster periods after the company was widely accused of toing a western bias for not using the service in other regions.
In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the social network activated the push notification which allowed people in Paris to tell their friends and family that they were okay. More than 4 million people are reported to have used the feature to ease the worries of concerned loved ones.
This has not been the case for Facebook users in areas such as Beirut though. Last week a suicide bomber killed over 40 people in the city and unlike in Paris, Facebook’s Safety Check was not initiated.
This has led many users to accuse the social network of placing more value on the lives of those in western countries, an accusation which Facebook chief executive mark Zuckerberg has moved to quickly address.
In a comment posted on Saturday, Zuckerberg said “you are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world” and added "we care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
Facebook’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz, also responded to the criticism in a blog post saying the Paris attacks were the first time that the feature had been enabled for anything other than a natural disaster, events which the tool was originally designed for.
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.”
Discussing why the service hasn’t been used in places such as Beirut, Schultz argued tha “during an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: because there isn't a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it's impossible to know when someone is truly 'safe.'"
Safety Check launched last year and works by triggering a push notification on devices that are near an affected area. Facebook determines location from cities listed in profiles, last location from the Nearby Friends feature, or the city you’re connecting and using the internet from. By hitting the ‘I’m safe’ button on the notification a News Feed story is generated automatically allowing users to see that someone is safe.