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21 August 2017

Facebook adds dedicated section for Safety Check to app and website

Facebook’s Safety Check feature is getting a permanent presence on the social network.

Beginning today, the feature will have its own dedicated section on Facebook’s app and website where users can see friends’ recent activity with Safety Check and learn about incidents happening elsewhere in the world.

When you head over to the new Safety Check section, you’ll see a feed highlighting any recent interactions you or friends have had with Safety Check. There’s also an “around the world” section that shows where the feature has been recently activates.

For each event, you can see a description of what happened, view associated fundraisers, and see how many people have offered help via the Community Help feature, which allows people to offer short-term assistance to people affected by natural disasters and other crises.

While Facebook has been steadily expanding Safety Check and its features since it first debuted in 2014, the update marks the first time the tool will have a permanent, dedicated space on the service. 

Previously, most users would only see Safety Check in their News Feeds if they were prompted to mark themselves as safe, or if a friend interacted with the feature, like marking themselves as safe or donating to a fundraiser.

Facebook's new section for Safety Check makes it easier to find out information about crises around the world.

Facebook’s new section for Safety Check makes it easier to find out information about crises around the world.

Besides making Safety Check more visible, Facebook says the update will help people get better information about ongoing incidents and reduce the chance that people panic if they see the feature in their own feed.

“We want to make sure that Safety Check continues to be useful and relevant to people during a crisis and does not create panic or false alarm,” says Peter Cottle, a software engineer for Safety Check.

One early criticism of Facebook’s Safety Check was that it could do more harm than good if notifications for a given incident were overly broad. Alerting an entire city about a situation that really only affects a one neighborhood, for example, could cause unnecessary alarm. 

The company has said this was one motivation for turning Safety Check over to the community, meaning that Facebook users control when the feature is activated. By relying on users rather than Facebook employees, Safety Check could be more precise.

Of course, as is always the case with Facebook, there’s always a chance people will spread false or necessarily alarming information, particularly in the midst of an unfolding crisis. But by making Safety Check details available for anyone to see, it should be easier now for people to find accurate information in the first place.

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