Facebook users outside of Nepal criticized for using ‘Safety Check’ feature

A rescue worker stands beside buildings that collapsed in an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
A rescue worker stands beside buildings that collapsed in an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. AP Photo/Ranup Shrestha

TORONTO – A number of Facebook users in the U.S. and around Europe are using Facebook’s Safety Check feature to mark themselves as “safe” following the Nepal earthquakes. The only problem is, they aren’t in Nepal.

The posts have garnered harsh criticism, with fellow social media users accusing people of making light of the situation thousands face following two major earthquakes in the region.

Safety Check allows family and loved ones to check in with those in the area affected by the quakes to let them know they’re safe. The tool allows users to check in as “Safe,” which sends a notification to their friends list.

READ MORE: Facebook users donate $10 million to Nepal earthquake survivors

Facebook activated the feature shortly after Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people last month. The region was hit again this week by a 7.3 magnitude quake.

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But, many users outside of the region appear to have marked themselves as “safe” – drawing controversy amongst their friends.

It’s unclear how these users are using the Safety Check feature without being in Nepal. According to Facebook’s website, Safety Check determines the users location based on the city they have listed in their profile, or their last shared location. If the area is affected by a natural disaster, Safety Check will send them a notification asking them if they are safe.

Users are able to change their “current location” under the “edit profile” section of their Facebook profile, which may allow them to receive Safety Check notifications.

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Social media has played an important role in aiding rescue operations in Nepal.

One Instagram account, named “Nepal Photo Project,” is working to source images from photographers in Nepal to help share information about missing persons and share the stories of the people on the ground.

The account – run by writer Tara Bedi and photographer Sumit Dayal – has gained over 34,000 followers since being launched on April 25.

View this post on Instagram

Ishwari Sahi had to carry his injured wife on his back for 4 hours from his small hamlet in Bandi Gaon, Sindhupalchowk to the nearest town where public transport was still functioning. He has lost his home, his elder daughter is admitted in a hospital in Dhundikhel. The Patan Hospital in Kathmandu has taken care of his wife's first aid expenses but she might need to go in for surgery to mend her leg. He has a 1000 rupees in his pocket right now. 'I don't know where to go from here' he said with eyes welled up. His nephew Krishna Kumar Sahi's contact number is +977 9849205903. Krishna can only speak Nepalese, so for those looking to help, please email us directly at nepalphotoproject and we can help coordinate for you. Photo by @sumitdayal #nepalphotoproject #nepalearthquake #nepal #kathmandu

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Google launched a “Person Finder” tool on its website after the earthquake, which allows loved ones to enter the names of missing family members into a database. Users with information about a missing person can also add to the database.

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Whatsapp is also being widely used to coordinate recovery efforts, according to reports.

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