Dozens Killed in Nigeria Bombing, and Facebook Has Decided It's Important

The social media site activated its safety check feature following deadly blasts in Nigeria, after facing intense criticism for being selective about deploying it.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 18 2015, 10:15am

Le conseguenze di un bombardamento il mese scorso in Nigeria (foto di STR/EPA)

Facebook activated its "Safety Check" feature late on Tuesday following blasts in Nigeria that killed 32 people and injured 80 others, in an attack which bore the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. 

The social media network faced intense criticism for being selective about deploying the feature — which allows users to alert friends and families they are okay after a disaster by "marking themselves safe" — after it activated it after Friday's gun and bomb attacks in Paris, but not for suicide bombings in Beirut a day earlier.

The Nigerian explosions took place in a busy fruit and vegetable market in the capital city of northeastern state Adamawa. "The ground near my shop was covered with dead bodies. I helped to load 32 dead bodies into five vehicles," said witness Alhaji Ahmed, who owns a shop in the market.

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Boko Haram has killed thousands over the last six years in its bid to create a state adhering to strict Sharia law in Nigeria's northeast. Suspected militants from the group have carried out attacks in neighboring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon in recent weeks but have not struck northeastern Nigeria since late October when bombings in Yola and Maiduguri left at least 37 people dead.

Facebook usually activates its Safety Check feature after natural disasters, but not bombings or attacks. In a post on his Facebook page on Saturday, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the feature would now be used more frequently.

"After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward," he said. 

Facebook said it decided to activate the feature as news of the Paris attacks unfolded because of the level of activity on its 1.55-billion-user network. People in Paris were posting to let their friends and family know they were safe, Alex Schultz, Facebook vice president of growth, wrote in a post on Saturday.

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