Social Media Sees Positive and Negative Responses During Paris Attacks

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Historically, people across the globe have come together in the face of devastation and tragedy, most recently, during the Paris attacks on November 13.

As the role of social media has increased exponentially in recent years, it should come as no surprise that Twitter and Facebook played a pivotal role in how people across the world were briefed on the attacks. And sadly, it's not all good.

Facebook activated its Safety Check feature on Friday, originally developed for the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and later used during the Nepal and Chile earthquakes. This is the first time that the Safety Check has been used for non-natural disasters, according to VentureBeat.

Through Safety Check, Facebook users can let their friends and family that they were safe, in addition to checking in on others in the area and reporting that their friends are safe. Within 24 hours of the attacks, 4.1 million people marked themselves as safe and, as a result, 360 million people received information about their loved ones, Facebook confirmed to VentureBeat.

Facebook received criticism for not activating Safety Check in similar non-natural disasters in the past - for instance, during last week's tragedy in Beirut - and as a result will be changing its policy on the Safety Check feature. In a Facebook post, Alex Schultz, vice president of growth, said that an overwhelming use of Facebook during the attacks prompted Facebook to turn on the application:

"We chose to activate Safety Check in Paris because we observed a lot of activity on Facebook as the events were unfolding. In the middle of a complex, uncertain situation affecting many people, Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones. We talked with our employees on the ground, who felt that there was still a need that we could fill. So we made the decision to try something we've never done before: activating Safety Check for something other than a natural disaster. There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris."

Twitter served as a beacon for some to find safety, as the #PortesOuvertes hashtag brought the community together. Parisians created an open-door policy through the hashtag to welcome in people seeking safe havens throughout the city.

However, a much darker movement surfaced on Twitter, via supposed supporters of the Islamic State. The hashtag, #باريس_تشتعل, which translates to "Paris burns," began cropping up - it's the same hashtag used during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo's offices earlier this year, reports The Next Web. There have been calls to Twitter to ban the hashtag, but so far attempts have been futile.

An important note about the Islamic State: "It is neither Islamic, nor is it a State. The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations," said a letter to David Cameron signed by the Islamic Society of Britain and the Association of Muslim Lawyers, according to The Independent.

While the digital age can help news travel faster and bring people to safety, it also, sadly, can be a breeding ground for negative sentiments as well. Our support goes out to everyone affected by the Paris massacres. #PrayForParis


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