Wednesday 13 December 2017

Facebook expands safety check feature

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Cara McGoogan

Facebook has launched a new feature to help people find basics such as food, water and shelter when natural disasters strike.

The addition, called Community Help, connects people near natural and accidental crises so that they can ask for help or offer support to victims.

Users that are in an area affected by a disaster will have access to the new section that lets them connect with people nearby for help including access to transport and supplies.

Community Help comes as an update to the Safety Check button, which was added to the social network back in 2014 to let users tell their friends they're safe when disasters occur.

When Facebook receives an alert that an incident has happened it checks local users' posts and, if it detects a spike in activity, activates Safety Check.

Initially only available for natural disasters, the company first activated it for human disasters during the Paris attacks in 2015. To start with, Community Help will only be activated during natural events, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and fires.

The feature is available in six countries to begin with, including the US, India and Saudi Arabia, with a plan to expand to all countries after a few weeks of testing.

It is available to people over 18 and in the affected region.

Facebook designed Community Help in response to try and make it easier for people to assist one another in the event of such disasters. Once turned on in an area, it remains active for 60 days.

The feature raises security fears as it connects people that aren't friends on Facebook. But the company said it has added a series of checks users can follow, as well as prominently displaying any mutual friends you have. It will also moderate any posts reported as suspicious.

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