Facebook announced this week that it will place control of its Safety Check disaster response tool completely in the hands of its users. This means that, when enough Facebook users are posting about an incident in a given area, the site will automatically generate a notification asking people in the area if they’re OK.
Safety Check was first introduced in 2014, and Facebook has triggered it 39 times since. However, the site began testing community-triggered safety checks just this summer, and users have already caused it to happen 328 times. The difference between those numbers is why Facebook wanted to give users more control, but that also opens up the site to controversies like the one it faced this summer when a protest over the police shooting of an African-American man in Charlotte, North Carolina, was labeled a “crisis area.”
Though the feature could potentially be abused by users trying to shut down groups they disagree with in situations similar to the Charlotte protest, this update may also prevent weird glitches like the one that said a suicide bombing in Pakistan also happened in the U.S. and U.K. Facebook is also rolling out another helpful feature called Community Help, a tool tied to Safety Check that will enable users to find and provide help in the wake of emergencies. So more user control can be both a good and bad thing — depending on how it’s used.
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