Beirut-Paris double standard?
Critics of the site accused it of valuing the lives of Western victims more than those in the Middle East and other regions, a charge disputed by others, who said other factors are at play, reported Al Jazeera.
The company introduced the feature shortly after the coordinated attacks across Paris late on Friday.
The function allowed users in the Paris region to “check-in” and let family members and friends know that they were safe.
The company had previously only implemented the use of the feature after natural disasters, such as the recent earthquake in Pakistan.
Social media users took issue with the decision and expressed anger that it had been used after the attacks in France, but not in Beirut where suicide bombers had killed at least 43 people a day earlier.
Both attacks were claimed Daesh.
In a post shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook, Lebanese blogger Joey Ayoub criticized the apparent disparity in reactions to the two sets of attacks, arguing that the deaths in Beirut did not seem to matter as much as the deaths in Paris.
“We don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.
“It’s a hard thing to realize that for all that was said … most of us members of this curious species, are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the world,” Ayoub wrote.
Ayoub was not alone in his criticism, with many users on Twitter asking why Facebook had not used the feature in Lebanon.
However, criticism of Facebook was far from universal, Al Jazeera spoke to Lebanese journalist Doja Daoud, who said that the “safety check” function would not have been as useful in Beirut as it was in Paris. “It can be practical at a point, but we have to put in mind that in Lebanon, and in case of bombings, rain, explosions, protests, the mobile connectivity goes out, so I think people won’t really be able to connect to Facebook to check in,” she said. Daoud said Lebanon could not be directly compared to France because it had a more tumultuous recent history.
“In Lebanon we experience war and its consequences more than French people do.
“This is a humanitarian thing, the same terrorism that kills Lebanese people, Iraqis and Syrians, killed the French,” Daoud said.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has addressed the criticism, telling users they were right to ask why “safety check” was used in one instance but not the other.
“Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate safety check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate safety check for more human disasters going forward as well,” he wrote on a post on the Facebook website.
“We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
Facebook also introduced a feature allowing users to place an overlay of the French flag on their display pictures to express solidarity with the attack, a move that has also attracted criticism online.