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Facebook activates Safety Check after Orlando nightclub shooting

Facebook activated its Safety Check feature in the hours after the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting to help family and friends check in on loved ones in the area.

The social network first introduced its Safety Check feature in October 2014 to provide a simple, centralized way for people to spread the word that they are safe in the wake of a natural disaster or crisis, and to search for friends who may be in the area.

Facebook's Safety Check feature allows people to notify friends and family they're safe after a disaster and to check on loved ones in the area. Facebook

Since then, the feature has been used by millions of people around the world. "In 2015, more than 950 million people received a notification that a friend or loved one was safe in a crisis," Facebook told CBS News in a statement.

Safety Check was first activated in response to a terrorist attack in November 2015 after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people. Some criticized Facebook's decision at the time, however, because the feature had not been activated a day earlier when a bomb killed at least 43 people in Beirut. Facebook explained that until the day of the Paris attacks, it had intended the feature to be used after natural disasters but would now expand its use for "human disasters" as well.

"Over the last few years there have been many disasters and crises where people have turned to the Internet for help," Facebook stated in a press release when the feature was first announced. "Each time, we see people use Facebook to check on their loved ones and see if they're safe. Connecting with people is always valuable, but these are the moments when it matters most."

As the scope of the tragedy of the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, emerged Sunday morning, the news dominated social media as well as nationwide news coverage, and quickly rose to the top of Facebook's trending topics list.

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