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Facebook Activates Safety Check For London Fire, But Should It Have?

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Facebook has taken a lot of flak over its Safety Check feature since it was introduced, although most of the negative attention has been people blasting it for not activating the feature. Today, the social networking company activated Safety Check for the London fire, but some are suggesting that it probably should not have.

Death toll expected to rise in London fire

At least 12 people are confirmed dead and 75 others are being treated at six different hospitals after fire engulfed a massive tower black in West London. According to The Guardian, police expect the death toll to keep rising as search and rescue workers scour the 24-story Grenfell Tower. After the fire was extinguished, police worked alongside firefighters to retrieve the bodies of those killed in the blaze. Residents of Grenfell Tower are reporting that they have had concerns about fire safety in the tower for years. The tower contains 120 flats.

Officials have established a casualty bureau specifically for the London fire so that people can report any loved ones who are missing after the fire. Meanwhile, friends and family members of those who lived in Grenfell Tower posted messages about the London fire on social media as they tried desperately to locate their missing loved ones.

Facebook activates Safety Check for London fire

Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for the London fire, sending push notifications to the devices of those who live in or anywhere near Grenfell Tower. Given that officials set up a special bureau so that people could report missing loved ones, the social networking company may have felt that it should activate Safety Check, but not everyone agrees, especially because some of those who received an alert saying that they should check in live miles away from the tower.

TechCrunch admits that the London fire was indeed a tragedy but questions the wisdom and motives of activating Safety Check. Rob Manuel, who lives six miles away from Grenfell Tower, received a notification to check in through Facebook’s feature, but he questions Facebook’s motives for activating it.

Is Safety Check just about engagement?

Indeed, people who live six miles away from a building fire probably don’t have anything to worry about and thus probably don’t need to check in with Facebook’s Safety Check because their loved ones probably assume they’re fine. Offering a feature like Safety Check probably seems like good PR because it suggests Facebook actually cares about its users and wants their friends to be able to know they’re safe. But then there’s the other side of the coin.

As TechCrunch notes, Facebook uses trigger phrases like “tell friends that you’re safe,” so those who don’t check in via Safety Check run the risk of their friends and family members being worried sick about them. Further, since Manuel lives six miles away, his loved ones probably weren’t worried about him because they knew he was far away from the fire. But if he chooses to check in like Safety Check wants him to, he runs the risk of causing them stress because the feature was the only reason they even worried about him because of the London fire in the first place.

From a business perspective, Safety Check is an excellent way to drive engagement among users, so we would be forgiven to think that Facebook cares only about its bottom line and not about whether its users are OK. The social networking firm is adding even more features to Safety Check, like the ability to start fundraisers inside of it, just in case they were impacted by a disaster and need to raise money to fix their problems.

Facebook does rake in money whenever people run personal fundraisers through it, although it said at the time it rolled out the personal fundraising tool that it isn’t “in the business of making profit on this.” It charges a 6.95% fee plus 30 cents per donation.

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