Facebook apologises for sending Lahore bomb 'safety check' to users around the world

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Facebook has apologised for pushing its safety check feature to users worldwide in the wake of the suicide bombing in Pakistan.

After the deadly attack in Lahore on Sunday, in which at least 69 people were killed and hundreds injured, Facebook users nowhere near the Pakistani city were mistakenly asked if they were safe.

Users as far away as Sydney, Honolulu, Brussels, Ontario, Cairo, Hong Kong and New York received the notification care of Facebook’s disaster response feature.

Some users received texts to their phones asking “Have you been affected by the explosion?” without any indication of where the danger was.

Many more received notifications that said the explosion was in Lahore who were nowhere in the vicinity.

It is not known how many people mistakenly received the notification, but Facebook has been contacted for comment.

The site apologised for the error in a post.

“We activated Safety Check today in Lahore, Pakistan, after an explosion that took place there. We hope the people in the area of the bombing find Safety Check a useful and helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay.

“Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay. This kind of bug is counter to our intent. We worked quickly to resolve the issue and we apologise to anyone who mistakenly received the notification.”

Users who are in the area affected by the attacks are able to use the safety check tool to mark themselves safe and connect with their friends.

The feature was first introduced last year, based on a location tool built after the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, with the intention of being used in the case of natural disasters.

Facebook changed its policy around safety check in November, after it was criticised for activating it for the terror attacks in Paris but not bombings in Beirut a day earlier.

“During an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: because there isn’t a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe’,” said vice-president of growth Alex Schultz in a post at the time.

Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg commented that there are many “important conflicts in the world”.

“We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”

Safety check was again activated after the bombing in Nigeria on 18 November, a few days later.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Elle Hunt, for theguardian.com on Monday 28th March 2016 03.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010