Pray for Orlando: Facebook Safety Check

Like everyone else, we are praying for the families and victims of the tragic and horrific terror attack in Orlando over the weekend where 50 people were killed in a nightclub, allegedly by an ISIS-inspired gunman.  It is yet one more reminder that our world outside our marketing pursuits can today be a scary place.

One small comfort is the new capability added by Facebook in the wake of similar attacks and other disasters that allow far-flung families and friends to know that their loved ones are okay. Facebook Safety Check was turned on by the social media powerhouse, enabling those in the area to click on “I’m safe.”

The feature also works in reverse, letting users check on their friends.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted this on Sunday:

“Waking up this morning, I was deeply saddened to hear about the shooting in Orlando. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the LGBT community.”

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 Somewhat surprisingly—and controversially as well—this is the first time the Safety Check feature has been activated stateside since its launch in October 2014. It was previously turned on for other incidents including the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines in 2014. Criticism has been raised over the lack of Safety Check availability after the Beirut suicide bombings. Facebook is vowing to activate the feature more often for such events.

The feature was developed by Facebook engineers, inspired by people’s use of social media to connect with friends and family in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Its original moniker was the Disaster Message Board prior to its release on October 15, 2014. The first major deployment was on Saturday, April 25, 2015, in the wake of the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. The tool was deployed again during Pacific Hurricane Patricia in October 2015, and during the Paris attacks—the first time it was used in response to a non-natural disaster. Subsequent activations have included the Brussels suicide bomber attacks.

Ironically, just over a week ago Facebook announced that it would start experimenting with community-activated Safety Checks. This may have been based on the criticism, as well as the desire to make it more community owned. Instead of waiting for Facebook to deploy it, Safety Check would be activated based on the combination of a certain number of people posting about a particular crisis plus an alert from one of Facebook’s third-party sources. Users would also be able to share and spread the word about the Safety Check once it was activated. The goal is to create more consistent, frequent, and streamlined deployments around the world.

We’d like to offer a hope: here’s to a world where Safety Check isn’t needed quite so much.

Direct Choice Inc. is a full-service direct marketing agency that has worked with national and regional brands in a wide variety of vertical markets. In addition to this blog, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

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