Facebook Marked Thousands of Users Safe After an ‘Explosion In Bangkok’ That Never Actually Occurred
When Facebook (FB)activated its Safety Check feature on Tuesday in response to “The Explosion in Bangkok, Thailand” thousands of Thai users clicked to indicate their safety. Some wrote to family and friends and assured them that they were unhurt, the Bangkok Post reports.
Here’s the thing, though: there was no explosion in Bangkok. At least not on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, as news of the blast spread around the world, the Post said it received inquiries from Asia and North America-based Thais worried about their relatives.
Thai journalist Saksith Saiyasombut tweeted an image of the Safety Check alert.
According to tech site The Verge, Thai Facebook users saw an alert to mark themselves safe at about 9p.m., local time. It was removed an hour later. Although there was scant details as to when or where the “explosion” occurred, the alert linked to an article about the 2015 bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan shrine. The source: a site called Bangkok Informer, which gave no indication its stories referred to a bygone event.
Facebook’s Safety Check has proved controversial since it was rolled out in fall 2014. The feature, originally intended to be used during natural disasters, was activated in response to terrorism for the first time during the November 2015 Paris Attacks. While many applauded the tool’s utility, some questioned why it had been turned on for some attacks but not others, such as the Beirut bombing the previous day, which killed 43 people.
And in March this year, Facebook apologized for a glitch that prompted users in the U.S., U.K. and other countries to mark themselves safe after a bomb exploded in Lahore, Pakistan.
More recently Facebook came under fire for failing to stem the flood of fake news articles in the run up to the U.S. elections. In response the company has moved to categorically ban websites publishing false stories from generating revenue with its advertising platform.