Facebook only recently gave users the power to activate the social network’s Safety Check feature, and this week people turned it on during the protests in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the first time the feature was used during a protest, Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
The protests were prompted by the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man. The demonstrations turned violent over the course of three days with one protestor being shot to death. A state of emergency was declared in the city earlier this week and the National Guard and state troopers were brought in to maintain order.
Safety Check had previously been used to verify users’ safety during extreme weather events and terror attacks, like the ones that killed more than 100 people in Paris last year. A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed that when "a significant number" of users post about an incident and are close to "a crisis area," they will be asked to let their friends know they're safe. Users will also be able to ask their friends to do the same.
Safety Check launched in late 2014 and was first deployed during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. People later criticized Facebook for seemingly focusing on Western incidents, especially terrorist attacks taking place in Europe, as opposed to events in countries like Lebanon.