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Facebook responds to backlash over Safety Check feature

After the terror attacks in Paris on Friday, thousands turned to Facebook to let friends and family know they were safe.

How survivors of Paris attacks reached out to social media

Using the Facebook "Safety Check" feature, people in the Paris-area were able to check-in, alerting those in their network they were okay by a click of a button.

While many were thankful for the feature after the Paris attacks, others pointed out the feature had not been turned on for other recent violence, specifically, the twin suicide bombings on Thursday that struck a southern Beirut suburb in Lebanon. The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded many more.

On Twitter, many expressed their frustration over the Safety Check not being activated for Beirut.

On Sunday, the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook's decision. In a comment on the social networking site, he said that many had asked why the Safety Check was turned on for Paris, but not for other places.

"Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters," he wrote. "We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well."

Zuckerberg directed users to a statement from Alex Schultz the Vice President of Growth at Facebook. In the statement, Schultz further explained the feature, and the choice to turn it on for the Paris attacks, that claimed the lives of 129 people, and injured 352 more.

Schultz explained that Facebook was first inspired to create the Safety Check tool in Tokyo during the Tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. The Safety Check was also used during the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal as well as Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines.

"We chose to activate Safety Check in Paris because we observed a lot of activity on Facebook as the events were unfolding. In the middle of a complex, uncertain situation affecting many people, Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones," the post read. "We talked with our employees on the ground, who felt that there was still a need that we could fill. So we made the decision to try something we've never done before: activating Safety Check for something other than a natural disaster. There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris."

Yesterday, we activated Safety Check in Paris so that people there could let their friends and family know they were...

Posted by Facebook Safety on Saturday, November 14, 2015

Schultz explained that the Paris activation will change Facebook's policy around Safety Check and when they activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future.

"We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help," Schultz wrote. "We will learn a lot from feedback on this launch, and we'll also continue to explore how we can help people show support for the things they care about through their Facebook profiles, which we did in the case for Paris, too."

Schultz said Safety Check will remain a work in progress, and Facebook will continue to work to make it better and more useful.