Facebook first activated its Safety Check function after Paris attack in early 2016, but this feature has recently experienced bug. On 27 March, just hours after a terrorist bombing attack in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, people in various locations around the world received Safety Check notifications. The notifications asked users outside Pakistan to tell their friends and family that they are safe, which was understandably useless if the person was not even in that country. Currently, Facebook users around the world are starting to question the quality of system behind this feature, which received praised the first time it was launched.
After being asked for confirmation, the company stated that it was because of bugs. Facebook has aimed to improve its features regarding of major atrocities, but so far, the company is still under heavy scrutiny for various inconsistencies that happened after a major atrocity, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters that happened in several countries recently.
Improvements Required for Facebook Safety Check
After Lahore bombing, users in Nepal, South Africa, United States and Canada reported that they had received Safety Check notifications, which asked them to tell family and friends that they are safe, despite the fact that they were not even in the country. According to Quartz.com, users in New York even received notifications hours after the incident (including some of the Quartz employees). Many of these users raised questions about this in various social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook users voiced concerns about the way Safety Check worked after the bombing news was reported. This concern is natural; Safety Check has been useful after Paris terrorist attack in January 2016 that killed more than 100 people. If the feature works properly, it can be very useful whenever major atrocities happen. Safety Check is also a great tool to notify friends, colleagues and families after major disasters, such as earthquake, volcano eruption, flood, and massive transportation accident. The bugs tarnished the reputation slightly, since the feature was created as information tool related to sensitive and frightening information.
Quartz.com have published a quote from Facebook spokesperson, who stated that the company has been aware of the notifications, and apologized for the confusion and fear that the notifications might have caused. Facebook spokesperson also said that the notifications were likely to be caused by bugs, and the company is now working on fixing the issues. However, in recent months, Safety Check and its related features have been sources of criticism among users and netizens.
Facebook Safety Check and Inconsistency Problem
Although the notification problems so far have not been a big problem, Facebook has come under heavy scrutiny regarding of inconsistency in Safety Check feature activation. One of the most discussed issues is how Facebook seemed to be inconsistent in activating its feature, and seemingly showed preference bias when it comes to disaster. For example, the company activated Safety Check after Paris terror attack, but it did not do the same after Beirut bombing, which had happened a day before.
Facebook again did the same thing after Ankara bombing, but not after gunman attack in Côte d’Ivoire. Many Facebook users and netizens in general have voiced their concerns about these seemingly biased decisions to turn on Safety Check. The discussion was in the same line with Facebook’s decision to provide temporary profile picture that stated solidarity with France, but not with other countries that experienced terrorist attacks, such as Turkey and Lebanon. While the company announced that the system still requires improvements, many users around the world have attacked Facebook for this seemingly biased decision to activate features.
Regarding of this problem, Facebook has stated that the company is working on improvements. Apparently, the result was obvious after recent terrorist attack in Nigeria that happened this week, in which Facebook activated its Safety Check. Netizens and Facebook users around the world continue to urge Facebook to fix the problem with Safety Check feature, and hope that the company no longer shows biased preferences when activating any useful feature after major atrocities, including terrorist attacks.
Safety Check Proves Facebook’s Function as Media Platform
Despite some inconsistencies and recent bugs in Safety Check notifications, the feature has managed to prove that Facebook has stepped up is game as media platform. With the popularity of link sharing and viral campaign through social media, more and more people nowadays start to get their daily news from social media instead of actual online newspaper. Facebook has been deemed slow when it comes to giving online updates about current news, especially compared to Twitter and its Trending Topics feature.
Safety Check notification consists of short information about what happened, followed by urge to tell Facebook friends that the user is safe. This means that Safety Check notification works in the same way with breaking news. Even with the recent bug that made users around the world also received Safety Check notifications after Lahore bombing, it also made them aware about what happened in Pakistan, even before they opened online newspaper websites or watched TV. Therefore, Facebook finally earned a somewhat equal place with Twitter regarding of breaking news platform, informing users worldwide about recent situations in a distant country.
While this breaking news function was not the original intention of Facebook when creating Safety Check, users have hoped that Facebook step up their game in providing media platform, like Twitter. Facebook seems still adamant in cementing its reputation as a safe social media platform with extra concern in privacy, instead of following Twitter’s path as a provider of breaking news and viral marketing tool through features like Trending Topics and hashtags; the latter has been adopted by Facebook for quite some time. With the unexpected bugs that turned Safety Check into breaking news tool, Facebook has potentials to develop functions that tap into its function as media platform.
Nevertheless, users now can expect Facebook to fix its Safety Check feature first, and the company is committing in keeping Safety Check as it was originally intended.