Did you get a Facebook Safety Check this morning? Facebook has apologized for sending out its Safety Check message out in error all over the world after the suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Facebook Safety Check tool is designed to be sent automatically to users in an area affected by a disaster like the Lahore bombing. The alert reads, “Are you OK? It looks like you’re in the area affected by The Explosion in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Pakistan. Let friends know that you’re safe.” The message prompts users to, “Reply SAFE if you’re ok or OUT if you aren’t in the area.”
The most recent reports on the Lahore, Pakistan bombing put the toll at 65 dead and approximately 330 people injured. The death toll was confirmed by Salman Rafique, Adviser to the Pakistani Chief Minister on Health Affairs, according to reports in SAMAA TV, a Pakistani news channel. A suicide bomber detonated his charge in the middle of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a public park in Lahore, Pakistan. The park was crowded with families celebrating the holidays and the suicide bomber reportedly set off the charge near a play area with swings. Many children are among the victims. With many of the wounded in critical condition, it is expected that the number of dead may rise. Authorities expect to be able to identify the suspected bomber.
Metro UK reported that users as far away from Lahore, Pakistan as the United States and the U.K. received the Facebook Safety Check message. It wasn’t long before people starting taking to the Internet to let Facebook know about its mistake.
Facebook also seems to think I was caught up in the Lahore bombing, which is odd considering I am thousands of kilometres away— Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) March 27, 2016
We're being bombed into bloody solidarity, one blast at time, a world united in grief. Even Facebook is worried that I'm in Lahore.— Richard de Nooy (@RicharddeNooy) March 27, 2016
According to The Independent, users who had never been to Pakistan or ever posted about it received the Facebook Safety Check message. The Facebook Safety Check feature is supposed to activate based on location. While it seems clear that some aspect of the feature went sideways on Sunday morning, Facebook has not elaborated on the reasons why. Gawker published an excerpt from an email sent by a Facebook spokesperson.
“We have activated Safety Check in Lahore. We apologize to anyone who mistakenly received a notification outside of Pakistan and are working to resolve the issue.”
On the surface, the Facebook Safety Check tool has admirable goals to let friends and family know as quickly as possible whether the person has been affected by sudden attacks, suicide bombings and other unforeseen events. However, many users have been critical of Sunday’s Facebook Safety Check fiasco. It’s not the first time the Facebook Safety Check has been at the center of controversy. Facebook Safety Check has come under fire recently, according to ITV, in the wake of the Brussels bombings with many saying the feature was implemented too slowly.
Others have called out the Facebook Safety Check for appearing to offer the alert when attacks are made in the West. As reported in The Independent, the Facebook Safety Check was not only activated after the Paris attacks of November 2015, Facebook took the extra step of customizing the feature for that event. Prior to the Paris attacks, the Facebook Safety Check had only been used in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes. Facebook also introduced the flag of France overlay that many users adopted to show solidarity with Parisians.
Social media users in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world took to the web to protest the fact that the Facebook Safety Check had not been used at all when a bomb blast had hit Beirut just the day before the Paris attacks. Prominent bloggers and many Twitter users criticized what they saw as a preference for Western victims over those located elsewhere in the world.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself addressed the criticism in a post, promising that the Facebook Safety Check would be applied more equitably; but, as today’s example illustrates, it appears there are still bugs to be worked out.
[Photo by by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]