Facebook activated its Safety Check feature immediately following the attacks in Paris, representing the first time the social network’s tool was used for something other than a natural disaster. The company was heavily criticized for doing so, not because the tool isn’t useful, but because Facebook didn’t activate it for previous similar attacks elsewhere, such as Lebanon. This highlighted a bias in the company, according to critics, which Facebook dismissed. However, as a harrowing attack took place in Mali, Safety Check remained inactive.
News of armed gunmen attacking a hotel in Mali quickly lead to requests that Facebook activate Safety Check, allowing those involved to check in if they’re safe. The social network didn’t activate the tool, however, despite recently stating that it would begin using Safety Check in situations such as this.
Safety Check, for those unaware, isn’t an always-there tool; rather, Facebook has to make the decision to turn it on, something it doesn’t do often. The tool was first introduced as a way for those in locations affected by a natural disaster to check in for friends and families’ sake.
Using Safety Check for situations like the ones in Beirut and Paris is tricky due to the nature of these attacks; they don’t have always have a clear ending point, and thusly a user could check in, only to possibly be swept up into the situation at a later point, making the tool useless.
It isn’t clear why Facebook decided to leave Safety Check inactive for the Mali disaster. The company did, however, turn the tool on following a bomb detonation that happened in Nigeria earlier this week.