Facebook apologizes for widespread safety alerts after Pakistan attack

Facebook apologizes for widespread safety alerts after Pakistan attack

A glitch erroneously sent Facebook Safety Check alerts to users around the world after the suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed 70 people and injured dozens more on Easter Sunday.

Facebook users on the other side of the world freaked out when they received texts asking them to “check in” and report that they were OK.

“Facebook Safety Check: Are you affected by the explosion?” the text said. “Reply SAFE if you’re ok or OUT if you aren’t in the area.”

Imagine their surprise.

Tweets from Facebook users indicated the errant Safety Checks went to people in Europe, the United States, Canada, South Africa and Nepal.

The website Mic noted that the alert was particularly alarming because it didn’t give a location for the explosion.

The feature was first activated after the terrorist attacks in November in Paris when more than 4 million people used the service in a two-day period.

As it’s designed to do, the service sent out push notifications to 360 million people worldwide telling them that family and friends in and near Paris were safe.

On Sunday Facebook apologized for a bug that sent Safety Check notifications to people who were nowhere near Pakistan.

“We activated Safety Check today in Lahore, Pakistan, after a bombing that took place there. Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay,” Facebook said in a statement.

The Safety Check had just been used on Tuesday after the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Because phone systems were overloaded after the explosions, Belgian authorities asked people to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to check in with family and friends.

Quartz noted other discrepancies that have popped up with Safety Check. For instance, it asked Facebook users in Ankara, Turkey, to check in after a March 13 bombing there, but didn’t send one out after the shootings that left 16 people dead in mid-March in the resort town of Côte d’Ivoire.

Still, some Facebook users noted that even though Sunday’s Safety Check went astray, it at least let people know that a bombing — somewhere — had happened.