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