The Orlando shootings of June 2016 marked the very first time Facebook decided to turn on its Safety Check feature for users in the United States. But it is never an easy decision for the company to make – Facebook is even experimenting with an automated way to turn on the feature.
Safety Check gives those near an incident the opportunity to inform their loved ones that they’re safe and sound, but, despite being used 28 times around the world for natural disasters and acts of terror, so far this is the first time Facebook has seen fit to turn on the feature in the US.
Katherine Woo, Product Lead of the Social Good project at Facebook explained, “By making the decision to go beyond natural disasters, we knew that unfortunately there were so many more human-related intentional or accidental events.
It used to be that we had to wake up an engineer in the middle of the night to break the code and fix the tool. Now we have a much easier tool for people who are trained to do it.”
Safety Check debuted in 2014, but Facebook only begun using the feature for human created – intentional and accidental – disasters following the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
Despite the feature debuting during the Paris attacks, some criticised Facebook for not rolling out the tech a week earlier after a double suicide attack in Beirut.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, wrote on his profile at the time, “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.”