In immediate response to Paris terror attacks, social media platforms became the hub for helping victims get to safety, keeping the world up-to-date on tragic events as they were unfolding, and receiving ongoing support from across the world. For technologies that were originally developed as a way to connect and share moments with friends and family, Facebook and Twitter provided support and connection that went beyond the news, amidst the chaos in Paris, France.
Facebook Safety Check
Facebook began to develop their Safety Check feature after seeing how social media was used during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. During the Paris terror attacks this past Friday, November 13th, Facebook activated the Safety Check tool that prompted individuals to tell their friends and family they were safe if location data from a phone or other device indicated they were in the area. The Safety Check feature also displayed lists of friends who were in the area, but had yet to mark themselves as safe.
It is unclear what factors must take place in order for the Safety Check will be activated. In the past year, Facebook activated their feature during five natural disasters. Friday’s event was the first time the Safety Check tool was used for a terrorist attack. Facebook’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz, commented in a blog post that, “in other parts of the world, where violence is more comment and terrible things happen with distressing frequency, it is not particularly useful for people. This is because there isn’t a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.'” Facebook is still working on the feature to make sure that this tool is available whenever and wherever it can help.
Facebook’s Safety Check tool will provide enough feedback for them to make adjustments for future horrific events. Now as similar threats are targeting Washington, DC in recent video clips from the Islamic state as well as across the world, Facebook will be working to better their tool for the next inevitable event.
Facebook Profile Picture Frame
Facebook’s Profile Picture Frame tool was most notably used in June 2015 to show support for same sex marriage this past. On Friday evening, late after the attacks, Facebook activated the tool again where users could add a France flag overlay to their profile pictures in support of France and the people of Paris.
Twitter Moments Tool
Twitter used their Moments Tool to highlight top news tweets on the Paris terror attacks. The tool was also used to highlight prayers and good wishes from high-profile individuals around the world.
Twitter Message Board
On Friday night, Twitter’s Message Board tool became a vehicle for helping people in Paris get to safety during the attacks as well as retrieving information on victims and survivors from worried family and friends.
- The hash tag #PorteOuverte – “open door” – offered shelter for people in Paris that needed it. In 10 hours, there were over 1 million tweets that used the #PorteOuverte hash tag.
- The hash tag #StrandedinUS also provided support for French people in the US whose flights have been cancelled.
- The hash tag #RechercheParis was used for worried family and friends seeking information on potential victims. In 24 hours, there were over 1 million tweets.
- The Message Board tool also was used to provide support for France. Twitter users across the world used hash tags #PrayForParis and #UneBougiePourParis as a way to create unity and support for victims of the attacks.
The violent attacks on Paris resulted in more than 130 dead and injured more than 350, 99 of who are in critical condition. Social Media was able to support this worldwide unity through specific tools that have been developed over the course of the past few years. As a result, over 4 million people used Facebook to tell their friends they were safe during the attack and over 78 million people joined in conversations or notifications on the attacks.