Facebook updates Safety Check to make the tool more personal and informative
The Facebook tool everyone hopes they’ll never have to use is getting another upgrade.
Facebook announced four new updates to its Safety Check feature on Wednesday, focused on personalizing your “safe” status through a variety of tools and resources.
You can now add a fundraiser directly to your Safety Check status, as well as a personal note to loved ones. When you come across another user’s Safety Check post in your News Feed, it will include more information about a given crisis situation for users who don’t know what’s happening. The company is also expanding the platform’s Community Help tool for all crisis situations.
“Keeping the community safe means everything to us at Facebook.”
“Keeping the community safe means everything to us at Facebook, and we hope that these updates to Safety Check continue to do just that,” Naomi Gleit, VP Social Good at Facebook, wrote in a blog post announcing the updates.
Safety Check, which lets you tell friends and family that you’re safe during an emergency situation or natural disaster, has been a defining social good feature of the social network since its launch in October 2014. Several updates have been made since then, most notably the decision to put control of the feature into the hands of users themselves. If enough people are posting about an incident in a given area, using a keyword like “earthquake” or “shooting,” Safety Check will activate automatically and ask those users if they’re OK. They can mark themselves as safe, and then prompt friends to do the same.
The tool has been activated more than 600 times in two years.
With Wednesday’s update, users will be able to start raising money via Safety Check in the immediate aftermath of a crisis. After marking themselves safe, users will see an option to create a fund for their own short-term or long-term needs, or for a charitable organization doing impactful work in the area. The fundraiser will then be posted alongside the Safety Check status on their timeline and the News Feed.
Fundraising during and after crises isn’t a new concept for Facebook users. After the Manchester bombing in May, for example, more than 22,000 people donated more than $450,000 to support the One Manchester Love Fund while watching the Facebook Live.
However, like personal fundraisers on Facebook, which officially rolled out to all U.S. users last month, fundraisers within Safety Check are only available to users located in the U.S. for the time being. The feature will roll out to users in the coming weeks, according to Facebook.
In certain emergency situations, simply marking yourself safe without additional context can do more harm than good. Now, with the personalized note update, Safety Check lets you add more information after you mark yourself safe by writing a public message with details about your particular situation.
Facebook will also add descriptions of each situation to the Safety Check page of each crisis to inform users about a particular disaster. The descriptions are provided by third-party crisis reporting agency NC4.
In line with Facebook’s goal to “build community,” the new update pushes the Community Help tool live for all situations where Safety Check is activated. The hub, which launched in February, lets users ask for and offer help after marking themselves safe via Safety Check during a crisis. Previously, the Community Help tool was only available during accidental disasters, like a building fire, or natural disasters, like an earthquake. Now, the feature has expanded to cover intentional forms of disaster, like terror attacks and violent crimes.
Community Help is now also be available on desktop, not just on iOS and Android.
Facebook says its steady expansion and reconfiguring of Safety Check is in response to user feedback on what information is most useful and relevant during a crisis. These new updates put even more power in the hands of users closest to a crisis.
Like all tech, the tool will never reach perfection. But steady improvements can help it evolve to meet more of the needs of users in distress and disaster.