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What Led To Facebook's Safety Check Feature?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. France is mourning today after the devastating terrorist attacks Friday night. The country is still in a state of emergency, with an extra 3,000 French troops expected to be deployed across the country by Tuesday. Officials are working to learn more about how the six coordinated assaults were carried out. One-hundred-twenty-nine people were killed. More than 350 were injured. As explosions and gunfire rang out across Paris, people headed to social media to tell friends and family they were OK. Facebook activated what it calls Safety Check. It's an app that lets people close to a disaster mark themselves as safe. The website has deployed the feature several times before, including for Hurricane Patricia and recent earthquakes in Chile and Nepal. But when Facebook started filling up with notices from people in Paris saying they were safe, critics started wondering why the company hadn't turned on the app after deadly attacks in Lebanon earlier in the week. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded in a statement that read in part, quote, "many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places." Facebook posted another statement online explaining the decision. They said the app was developed during the 2012 Tokyo tsunami and nuclear disaster. The statement says Paris triggered a change. It reads, quote, "we made the decision to try something we've never done before, activating Safety Check for something other than a natural disaster. There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times. And for us, that was Paris." It goes on to read, "this activation will change our policy around Safety Check and when we activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future. We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.