Facebook’s Safety Check And Flag Feature After Paris Attacks Sending ‘Double Standard’ Message: Where Was Beirut’s?

The deadly attacks in Paris have sparked a flood of international support for the Paris victims, and Facebook has also taken the time to #StandWithParis. Thus far reports have related that over 120 persons have been killed as a result of the Paris Attacks, but there were also lives lost in a similar attack in Beirut just one day before Paris. In the wake of the attacks, Facebook activated their Safety Check feature and implemented the option for users to change their profile pictures to one that is overlaid with a tricolor filter of the red, blue, and white flag of the French.

Unfortunately, the Paris attacks are just the latest in a string of terrible, fatal international disasters, and so the question has been posed about where these functions for other non-Western countries who suffered were? Where was the concern for Beirut, Baghdad, and Kenya? Prior to the Paris attacks, the Safety Check, a feature which allows users to mark themselves or others as safe in the wake of tragedies, had previously been activated by Facebook only during natural disasters. Critics of the social media giant have claimed that the failure to enact Safety Checks prior is based on the company valuing certain lives above others.

Currently, the internet is awash in a sea of media coverage on the Paris attacks, and they have the stories of multiple victims who died, as well as those who survived. Iconic buildings from around the world were lit up in the color of the French flag, and artwork flowed in tribute to the heartbreaking massacre.

On Thursday, in the southern part of Beirut, a suicide bomb was detonated, and the attack left 43 persons dead and 239 wounded. One heroic father, Adel Termos, tackled a second bomber before he was in a position to cause maximum damage and forced him to detonate early. That heroic sacrifice saved the lives of countless others in the marketplace that day, but cost Adel and his young daughter their lives.

Many persons took to social media to express their anger at not just Facebook, but the media in general. The attack in Beirut is believed to have been glossed over by the media, but even more so the earlier attack on Kenya that left 148 dead. Most persons were not even aware of that Kenya disaster, and now are directing a flood of anger about its lack of attention. Paris, however, was more than aware and held tribute to those who died in April.

Some persons have decided to take matters into their own hands and are doing their best to stand with and pray for all the other countries victimized by terrorist attacks in their own way.

According to Al Jazeera during their investigation, they found that criticism of Facebook is not universal, and Lebanese journalist Doja Daoud stated that the Safety Check would not have been useful in Beirut.

“It can be practical at a point, but we have to put in mind that in Lebanon, and in case of bombings, rain, explosions, protests, the mobile connectivity goes out, so I think people won’t really be able to connect to Facebook to check in. In Lebanon, we experience war and its consequences more than French people do.”

In response to the anger and questions, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a response to his Facebook page regarding their decision to add the Safety Check feature after the Paris attacks.

“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. We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”

Time reported that Zuckerberg made that post as a comment under his recently changed profile picture to one overlaid with the tricolour filter of the French flag. He did not, however, address the lack of options for any flag but France’s, despite the fact that it is a feature that the company is more than capable of implementing. In fact, in September, he overlaid his profile picture with one to support Digital India and the movement to bring internet to rural parts of the country.


U.S. Uncut showed a Google Trends graph that shows just where the interest and prayers of the media, and subsequently the majority of the world, lies. Popular Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh wrote a poem about the world’s disinterest that has since gone viral.

“It’s not Paris we should pray for, it is the world. It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings … is not covered in the press. A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad, and not one person’s status update says ‘Baghdad’ because not one white person died in that fire …”

[Photo by Fani Grande / Twitter]

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