The social giant Facebook has a feature called Safety Check, a powerful and useful crisis response tool. It's essentially a feature that sends a message to Facebook users in areas of immediate danger. This will allow them to notify friends and family that they are alive and well.
It has been used for natural disasters like hurricanes, and later, on mass shootings and terrorist attacks.
It's a great feature to help release the tense, but in fact, people have to wait for Facebook to manually turn the feature on. But that won't going to happen anymore. Facebook will allow its diverse community of users to trigger the feature themselves, as the company explained.
The company began testing this community-triggered checks back in June 2016.
"This way the community spreads the safety check and promotes it, instead of Facebook itself doing this top-down broadcast," said lead engineer of Safety Check, Peter Cottle, in June. "I think this is really exciting to have the community really be the ones. Talking about it triggers the initial prompt and then they check on their friends."
The community-based Safety Check tool works by picking up keywords indicating danger from certain areas, like "earthquake" or "shooting." Facebook then verifies with a third-party security company to know whether there is actually a real threat in the said place before letting the Safety Check roll out.
From there, Facebook users can choose to share the Safety Check with their friends and family in the same area. And by localizing Safety Check, the community can decide whether an event should be considered an emergency, or not.
The more users are involved, the more frequent Safety Check can be deployed. If users ignore the Safety Check prompt, Facebook will see it as an event not being as urgent of an emergency and the tool will eventually fade away.
So now, Facebook won't rely on its team that much anymore. Instead it's depending on its 1.2 billion daily visitors to help automatically launch the Safety Check feature.
Adding to the benefit, Facebook is also introducing a complementary feature called Community Help. Facebook describes it as "a place where people can give and get help for things like shelter, food and supplies."
Cottle said that the social network was inspired to create this feature after seeing the help people on social media were willing to provide, like on the trending #PorteOuverte ("Open Door") hashtag offering shelter following the Paris attacks.
Facebook has faced many criticisms regarding its failure in activating Safety Check for "human disaster" because previously, the feature was only available to natural disaster. People have asked questions about why the company had not activated the profile following suicide bombings in Ankara, Turkey and Beirut, Lebanon.
To the social media's defence, Cottle explained that Facebook had a high standard of what counted as a disaster.
Before the Paris incident, the feature had been turned on five times: on earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal and tropical storms in the Philippines and South Pacific.
In March, it also failed to turn on the feature after an attack in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, after gunmen killed 16 people in a resort town near Abidjan.
In the past two years, Facebook manually turned on Safety Check 39 times. That number is far from the 335 dangerous events flagged by its community-based Safety Check tool since the company began testing it in June.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded by saying the company would activate Safety Check more widely. "We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can."
Facebook's announcement to allow its community to turn on the feature themselves, is a step towards in providing a more flexible social network. And because Facebook is the largest social media network around, giving the power of Safety Check to the people is certainly a move to the right direction.