Kudos to Facebook – Safety Check is a good start, more work needed

During Friday’s horrible Paris attacks by Da’esh nut jobs, Facebook turned on ‘Safety Check’, a function allowing people in Paris to check in and say “I’m Safe”. I have a lot of friends in Paris and I was absolutely relieved to see those check-ins.

Criticism was quick: why not for Beirut which had been the victim of a terrorist attack too. That’s a fair critique. Facebook replied essentially saying “yep, fair critique, we’re working on it.” The thing about building a system like this is that it’s hard and often takes multiple tries before all the wrinkles are smoothed. Some things that immediately come to mind:

  1. People marking themselves as ‘safe’ when they aren’t there. This is a tough one as I saw several people who I know no longer live in Paris but still list their home city as Paris check in.
  2. People gaming the system with false emergencies. What are the criteria for a real emergency? Is it number of dead? Worldwide impact? Hard to say and this will be a very difficult conversation for Facebook. Can this be turned on by community/area owners who could best judge whether something is ‘big enough’ or not?
  3. The simple act of making it work on a system this big and complicated is not the work of days.

I give full props to Facebook for building this; they didn’t have to. I give them more props for acknowledging that there are gaps and issues but they are committed to making it better.

Now if we can just get those photo overlays “in support of” to actually link to something that does real support for places in need we’d have something. I changed my profile photo to a shot of happier times in Paris. Many people are using the French flag overlay. But other than “thinking of you” what does it do? It’s a nice gesture but why not allow those overlays to do something (e.g. donate money to the Red Cross) useful for a region that was just clobbered?

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