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Facebook Safety Check: damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Last year, Facebook deployed its Safety Check feature.  As its name indicates, it is a feature which will let your friends know that you are safe if you are in an area struck by some life-threatening situation.

The feature comforted many friends and relatives in the aftermath of the Paris attacks yesterday, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

However, voices are rising to speak of the so-called inherent injustice that exists between different races.

“These have been two horrible nights of violence. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut; the second took the lives of over 120 people and counting in Paris.  It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.  We do not get a “safe” button on Facebook. We do not get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users,” Joey Ayoub, a correspondent with Global Voices wrote on his blog.

Yet, this is not the first time the tool has been activated.  During the last earthquakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Nepal, the feature was activated, allowing many people to reassure their loved ones.

As is the case with most social media network tools, Safety Check relies on the user using it.  While it is up to Facebook to judge of the seriousness of a situation before activating Safety Check, it can only prompt the Facebook user to tell his friends that he is safe.  The user will then choose the course of action he wants.

Still, as a representative for Facebook said, “communication is crucial in these moments both for people there and for their friends and families anxious for news.”

And it isn’t those families whose hearts are put at rest by seeing the safety notifications from their loved ones who will say otherwise.

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