The feature will roll out “in the coming weeks” in the US, but Facebook declined to specify exactly when.
When you check in to say you’re safe from a nearby disaster, you’ll have the option to share and donate to a registered nonprofit related to the incident or create a personal fundraiser to raise money.
To help prevent people abusing the feature, a Facebook spokesperson said that a team of human moderators at Facebook manually reviews each fundraiser before it goes live to ensure that its description the category it was placed in, i.e. medical expenses, education, crisis relief, a pet’s medical expenses, or something else. The spokesperson said there’s no way that Safety Check would be triggered for a disaster that didn’t happen.
Facebook activates Safety Check when the independent crisis reporting agency NC4 notifies the social network of an incident. When asked about how the agency classifies disasters and what kind of incident would trigger Safety Check, a Facebook spokesperson said that was proprietary information.
In the past, the feature hasn’t always worked seamlessly. In the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, a bug in Safety Check prompted Facebook users in the US and the UK to mark themselves as safe. And in December 2016, Safety Check raised an alarm over an “Explosion in Bangkok, Thailand,” which the company seemed to think was a combination of a firecracker thrown at a peaceful protest and news stories referencing a bombing attack in 2015. A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Safety Check had been correctly deployed in that instance.
Facebook already allows nonprofits and individuals to create fundraisers, but the feature wasn’t integrated with Safety Check before. According to Facebook, the feature has been activated 600 times in the past two years, and people around the world have checked in as safe more than a billion times. The company pointed to the $450,000 raised for victims of the Manchester bombing via Facebook Live as an example of the fundraiser feature’s success.
Facebook takes a 6.9% cut and $.30 per donation for “payment processing fees, fundraiser vetting, and security and fraud protection” from personal fundraisers. Registered nonprofits pay a slightly smaller 5% fee, and unregistered nonprofits, which receive their Facebook donations via the nonprofit Network for Good, pay a 5.75% fee.
Facebook product designer Preethi Chenan wrote in a blog post, “I couldn’t be more proud of the empathy and care that goes into building this product.” Chenan emphasized the iterative process of designing Facebook’s crisis response features and said that the company would be monitoring chatter about it for feedback in various qualitative and quantitative ways.
Previously, your Facebook friends would just see that you had marked yourself as “safe” during nearby disasters. NOW You’ll be able to add text to check-ins in the coming weeks, though Facebook declined to specify exactly when. The feature will roll out globally.
Chenan wrote that a large number of people who check in as safe either comment on their check-in or create a new status update to describe what was going on where they are. This new feature simplifies that process.
The new process will also allow you to select “Doesn’t Apply to Me” instead of the “Not In The Area” to say you weren’t affected, as was the case in the past.
Sometimes people will see Safety Check alerts before they even know that a crisis or disaster is happening. To alleviate any confusion, Facebook plans to now include an “About” page for safety alerts.
NC4 will write the information cards, which will be based on information provided by government agencies, as well as reports from the scene. The feature will also roll out globally in the coming weeks, exact date unspecified.
When it launched in February, Facebook’s Community Help feature was only available for natural disasters or accidents, like a tsunami or a bridge collapsing. Now, Facebook will enable the Community Help feature during incidents like terrorist attacks, too. It’s also rolling out on desktop. It’s available globally today.