After activating its Safety Check tool in the aftermath of the Paris attacks last Friday, Facebook has deployed the feature for the second time in five days — this time for yesterday’s tragic bombing in Nigeria, believed to have been perpetrated by terrorist group Boko Haram. Facebook users who say that they live near the site of the explosion, which killed 32 and injured many more in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Yola, will be prompted to specify whether they are safe when they next access their accounts.
The company came under fire for a perceived Western bias when it activated Safety Check in the wake of the Paris attacks, with critics noting that terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia hadn’t previously warranted its deployment. In a Facebook post, Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of growth, said the feature was first thought up during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, and was originally designed to be used during natural disasters. Schultz said that Facebook wasn’t intending to downplay the tragedy of attacks elsewhere, but said that “there has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg justified today’s decision to activate Safety Check in a Facebook post, saying that the company “made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward” after the Paris attacks. “We’re now working quickly to develop criteria for the new policy and determine when and how this service can be most useful,” Zuckerberg said, going on to specify that he won’t post about every future occasion that the feature is deployed for a similar attack because such events are “all too common.” But the Facebook boss did also note that violence is also at an “all-time low in history,” with death rates from war, murder, and terrorism declining. “Please don’t let a small minority of extremists make you pessimistic about our future,” he said.