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Facebook Activates ‘Safety Check’ for Tuesday’s Bomb Blast in Nigeria

At leats 31 people were killed in a suiciding bombing in the city of Yola.

After a bomb blast Tuesday evening in Yola, Nigeria, took the lives of at least 31 people, Facebook announced the activation of its Safety Check feature, a button that enables people in disaster areas to let their friends and family know they’re out of harm’s way. Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement on his Facebook page. “After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward,” he wrote. “We're now working quickly to develop criteria for the new policy and determine when and how this service can be most useful.”


Last week, when Facebook engineers activated the feature for those affected by the Paris bombings, there was unexpected backlash. If Paris got a Safety Check, why not Beirut? Why not Garissa? Who gets a Safety Check and why? The event seemed to say something more profound about the value of human life and selective news coverage. The implication, of course, is that as members of the “developed world,” French lives seemed to matter more. Meanwhile, the bombings in Beirut, Garissa, and Yola City had been accepted as the “norm,” a regular feature of daily life in those parts of the world.

The criticism was so harsh that Zuckerberg himself was compelled to respond on his Facebook page, commenting, ““You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world… We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”

In a longer statement, Alex Schultz, the vice president of growth, explained that “in the case of natural disasters, we apply a set of criteria that includes the scope, scale, and impact. During an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: because there isn't a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it's impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.’” He went on to write that they would be deploying the button for other disasters as they happen. Nigeria is the first case.

Later in the day, Zuckerberg also announced the development of a “Donate” tool, which will allow users to give money to select nonprofits. He inaugurated the feature with a post for Mercy Corps’ campaign for Syrian refugees.

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