Amid the horrific terror attacks in Paris on Friday, Facebook activated its “Safety Check” tool to help people easily let friends and family known that they were safe. More than 4.1 million people used it.
While many lauded Safety Check for being a crucial communication tool, Facebook also drew criticism from those who noted that the company hadn’t activated it after another tragic attack: The bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, that happened the day before.
The lack of activation seemed to point to a global compassion gap for terror victims in Europe versus those in the Middle East.
In a post titled “From Beirut, This is Paris: In a World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives,” a Lebanese doctor named Elie Fares put the issue poignantly:
When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. Even Facebook didn’t bother with making sure my people were marked safe, trivial as it may be. So here’s your Facebook safety check: we’ve, as of now, survived all of Beirut’s terrorist attacks.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the topic in a Facebook post:
“Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.”
Facebook had enabled the tool only five times since launching it in October 2014, with all previous usage occurring around events like earthquakes and tsunamis.
But, did Facebook Safety check tool activate on 13th of June when Georgia was hit by the devastating flood that destroyed the city’s Zoo? Georgians stand witness to the fact that it most positively did not. So, Facebook’s natural disaster argument fails to vindicate the Company’s geographically selective attitude toward human loss.
Facebook is a corporation that executes its PR decisions based on the realistic economic gains from the countries where the social media platform is used most actively. So, it is not that surprising that Tbilisi’s June 13 Flood did, with 20 reported dead, did not make it to Zuckerberg’s attention.