On Sunday, a suicide bombing rocked Lahore, Pakistan, and Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for users in the area. However, the emergency alert system experienced a bug, and users in the U.S. and UK also received the terrifying warning.
“We hope the people in the area of the bombing find Safety Check a useful and helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay,” Facebook said. “Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay. This kind of bug is counter to our intent. We worked quickly to resolve the issue and we apologize to anyone who mistakenly received the notification.”
The bug affected the Facebook app and browser by notifying users around the world about the specific suicide bombing in Pakistan, so it was likely easy for users to dismiss it as a glitch. However, Facebook also sent out text messages that did not specify Pakistan, only reading: Facebook Safety Check: are you affected by the explosion?” Facebook hasn’t disclosed how many users were affected by the issue, but it’s safe to assume many of them were scared and alarmed.
Facebook’s global reach often leads to the criticism that it acts like Big Brother — but its technology can be scary even when it’s trying to be helpful.