Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced it would commit to turning the Safety Check feature on in more human-caused disasters going forward. The announcement was made in response to criticism that it turned the feature on for terrorist attacks in Paris but not in Beirut.
According to Zuckerberg, the attack in Paris was the first time that the company had turned the feature on for a human disaster rather than a natural disaster such as an earthquake. The feature itself allows users to mark themselves as "safe" so that friends and family would know that they are out of danger.
"Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places," said Zuckerberg in a post. "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."
The feature was first used in 2011 during the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Tokyo. Since then, it has been turned on for disasters such as earthquakes in Afghanistan, Nepal and Chile, as well as during Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines and Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific.
Facebook also explained why it doesn't turn on the feature for things such as ongoing wars, saying that the feature wouldn't be that useful for ongoing crisis because there isn't a clear beginning and end point like there is during a natural disaster or massacre. The company said that it chose to turn the feature on for the terrorist attack in Paris because it noticed a lot of ground activity.
"In the case of natural disasters," Alex Schultz, vice president of growth for Facebook, said on the other hand, "we apply a set of criteria that includes the scope, scale and impact."
Schultz also said that the company learns a lot each time it is deployed, and that the company will continue to evaluate the feature.