Facebook apologized for a glitch in its Safety Check feature, activated after the bombing in Pakistan on Sunday, which was accidentally sent out to users around the world, alarming and confusing many people.
Shortly after the tragic terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, which left at least 69 people dead and hundreds wounded, Facebook activated the feature, which sends out text and push notifications to users in areas affected by natural disasters, accidents, and terrorist attacks and allows those users to confirm to their friends whether they are safe or not. However, due to a bug in the Safety Check system, Facebook users as far away as New York, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Ontario, Cairo, and Brussels got the Safety Check notifications, which were sometimes cryptic in nature, reports Reuters.
One Safety Check text message only read "Are you affected by the explosion?"
Obviously receiving such a vague text message from a source you trust could cause a lot of panic, especially for users who received the text in Brussels, which has recently had two tragic bombings of its own.
Facebook’s Safety Check push notifications were more specific, specifying the explosion in Lahore, however they were still sent to people in cities thousands of miles away.
In a post on Facebook’s Disaster Response page, the company acknowledged the mess-up.
"We activated Safety Check today in Lahore, Pakistan, after an explosion that took place there. 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," the post read. "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 Safety check feature has been around since 2011, when it was designed in response to the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. It was originally intended to only be used for natural disasters, yet since the Paris attacks in 2015 the company has used the feature during terrorist attacks, including those in Paris, those in Nigeria, and of course the bombing in Lahore yesterday.
At the time of the Nigeria attack, Mark Zuckerberg said "After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward. We're now working quickly to develop criteria for the new policy and determine when and how this service can be most useful."