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Facebook Tests 'Safe' User Tag For Disasters

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the or-you-could-post-a-comment-on-slashdot dept.

Facebook 62

aesoteric writes "Facebook has embarked on a nationwide test of a new disaster message board for users across Japan. The feature allows users to mark themselves as being 'safe' in the event of a disaster. Doing so introduces a 'safe' insignia next to their name on their profile. The Facebook announcement appeared to be geoblocked."

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Lame (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184177)

Like in the middle of a disaster people are going to start posting to facebook. Oh wait..

Re:Lame (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184197)

Darwin law to the (not-)rescue!

Re:Lame (0, Redundant)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184201)

Naturally []

Re:Lame (3, Insightful)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184225)

Well, since there is a Facebook app for damn near every phone over here, and you know that nobody in Japan goes anywhere without their phone, it's a safe bet that they will have a way to post their status.

Not a bad idea really.

Grr.. Damnit slashdot, I am not on an open proxy! Just because port 8080 is open on a router is not a reason to stop people from posting. Jeez.

Re:Lame (2)

jrumney (197329) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184267)

This is nothing more than a marketing drive to try to attract attention to themselves from the Japanese public who have so far ignored Facebook almost completely.

Simply not true (1)

amake (673443) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194143)

Facebook is already a big player in Japan. They passed 10 million users last fall. Sure, there are bigger networks, but to say Facebook is ignored "almost completely" is simply not true. []

Re:Lame (5, Interesting)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184281)

Following the Fukushima quake, all phone networks were down to allow for emergency traffic only (I live in Tokyo). Internet was the only way to get a message out for a while. I sent a quick email to family who hadn't woken up in the states yet, because I was sure it would be on the news networks when they woke up.

However, the following few days, people I barely knew or hadn't spoken to in ages, started coming out the woodwork, asking if I was okay. This feature is not a bad idea. It sure beats my mother plastering messages all over my wall, trying to tell people I'm okay.

Re:Lame (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184627)

Here here! Very frequently, after a disaster, all the phone lines to the affected area are tied up with people either calling to announce they're safe, or calling people that might be in the area to see if they're safe. The official that shut down the phone network did exactly the right thing, because this is precisely at the same time as you really want the lines to be focused solely on 911 and other emergency traffic. It's absolutely human instinct to do anything in your power to ensure that your loved ones are safe, but it's counterproductive when there are huge numbers of people affected.

So having something that would use far less bandwidth for "I'm OK" would solve a real problem. I'd actually recommend they make a little app that sends off something like a 100-byte message that would mark this on the website, so that users wouldn't have to browse to it. Even a false "I'm safe" followed by the person getting killed is actually an improvement, because the point of a tool like that is to prevent panic outside of the disaster area. The simple fact is that in a disaster, you or your loved one could well die very quickly, and there's absolutely nothing you can really do to prevent it. The best thing you can do inside the disaster zone is to aid the injured if you have the training, get out of Dodge, and/or help others get out of Dodge. The best thing you can do outside the disaster zone is stay as calm as possible, provide aid to any of the victims or rescuers that happen to show up, and otherwise get the heck out of the way and let the rescuers do their job.

Re:Lame (2)

DZign (200479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184711)

Last year in Belgium a large storm hit Pukkelpop festival (large tents collapsed, some people died). Phone lines were all overloaded (both outgoing and incoming phones) but people could still tweet/fb they were ok.

Re:Lame (3, Informative)

rabenja (919226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185623)

Hear, Hear

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187437)

I'd actually recommend they make a little app that sends off something like a 100-byte message that would mark this on the website, so that users wouldn't have to browse to it.

See: Twitter

Re:Lame (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187683)

My parents where once in a situation when some trouble started where they were on a holiday. I did not try to contact them. What would I have done if they weren't?
I had no insight on what REALLY was going on so I could only make them panic for no reason or hear that something terrible had happened to them, to which I could also do nothing and just hope for the best.

Re:Lame (2)

thomthom (832970) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184955)

Aye. When the bomb went off in Oslo I was in Sweden for a vacation. I started getting odd "Are you OK?" messages from people, even people I don't frequently talk to. I found it very nice to use Facebook to inform the general bulk of my acquaintances who where concerned. I also found Facebook to be a useful source of finding out of my friends and acquaintances in Oslo was ok - it was quite chaotic and for each person to contact everyone they know - or reply to each request would take a lot of time. Ditto for the London bombings - then the social websites weren't so widely used, but I found it difficult getting any life-sign from my friends in London because the phone network collapsed. Then it took days before I got replies. So yes, this is an area where I find social connection websites comes very handy and useful. It's not really more unthinkable to drop a message on a website as oppose to sending texts or phoning.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39185989)

Having been through the exact same thing, facebook was where I posted my first message. (I was watching bakemonogatari at the time, now that series has a special place in my heart in addition to being the best released thing in years)

Even SoftBank's SMS messages were delayed by hours.

Spotify First (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#39188151)

Interesting use of technology that I thought would have come sooner since the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and the tsunami that contributed to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

I guess Spotify integration was much sexier.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184307)

Yeah, I don't get it. If I needed people to know I was safe, I'd call them or email them. I don't see what Facebook has to do with any aspect of it.

Re:Lame (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184717)

Sure, you would notify your immediate family and friends, but what about that guy you used to work with? Or those people you collaborated with on a project 10 years ago? Or the people you went to school with?

Re:Lame (4, Funny)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184347)

except this is a problem - the people actually in the disaster often won't have access to FB, whereas the people nowhere near can happily say they are safe.

Hey mom, I'm ok, I'm not under attack in Syria.

(because I'm at home in the UK, with nothing more dangerous than thinking whether to have cheese or ham on my sandwich).

There again, there's the after-effect problem... actually in a disaster, post "I'm safe" to FB, then look up to see the chunk of falling masonry .... somebody's going to sue FB for sure when that happens!

Re:Lame (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185491)

somebody's going to sue FB for sure when that happens!

Anybody with money is going to get sued for pretty much anything they do. It's a sad reality of our society.

They won't have any case. Facebook is not doing anything other than passing along information the user himself has asked it to display. It's really no different than a post on their wall in that regard, except the placement and the narrow purpose. If I tell Facebook I'm safe and I'm not, how exactly is that Facebook's fault or their problem, much less an actionable tort?

Somebody will still try it, of that I have no doubt. I would simply advise anybody contemplating suing had best think twice before angering a company worth billions of dollars with a frivolous lawsuit. Imagine if Facebook decided to ask for attorney fees for their troubles...

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184367)

Actually, people us any means to communicate with love ones during a disaster.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184433)

The real disaster is Facebook.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184551)

Yes. They are, if they're safe.

Re:Lame (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184635)

Indeed during the Fukushima earthquake, my son was just there (in his university room) and security people had to chase him away from continueing to chat, unaware of the criticity... He admittedly was a foreigner, more unaware than others maybe...

Re:Lame (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184919)

You kidding? They'll be filming it with their iPhones (held vertically) and uploading their own death throes before they'll run away and actually use the phone for it's intended purpose - ie. to call people and tell them they're OK.

New Orleans (5, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184221)

Lets try to file a bug report using New Orleans as an example in haiku format in honor of this being rolled out first in Japan...

Hurricane passes overhead
District Nine clicks Safe
Levees collapse; all drown; Whoops;

haiku formatted bug reports are superior to free text, although I'm guessing I shouldn't quit my day job and become a professional poet...

Re:New Orleans (4, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185139)

Your command of words
Is much like your sex appeal
Lacking and awkward.

Re:New Orleans (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185341)

Now there's a button that would actually be useful on facebook...

They need a 'Tard' tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184227)

For Juan Pablo Montoya after he ran into the track jet dryer

Good - no excellent idea (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184255)

I'm not a Facebook fan but this is an excellent idea. Send a tweet and everyone concerned will know you're safe.

But... (0)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184299)

But where can I be safe from the eyes of facebook?

As of when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184337)

This doesn't add any new information.
"I'm safe", but as of when? You were safe when the earthquake hit, sure. But are you safe from the aftershocks? the tsunamis? the riots?
You'd still need to look in to see what "I'm safe" actually refers to, and as of when it was true.

This seems just as useful as a turn signal is to pedestrians: Sometimes gives accurate information for a brief moment when you might need it, but is too-often inaccurate, ignored, or out-of-date, to be useful.

One problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184341)

It wouldn't be useful for this guy: []

Expiry time? (5, Interesting)

FunPika (1551249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184349)

Okay so what if someone marks themselves as safe...then a few minutes later another earthquake hits and a roof falls on their head or something similar. Will the tag expire after a certain amount of time?

Re:Expiry time? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184479)

Safe as of T.

Re:Expiry time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184487)

Good point. It should be like a heartbeat, and you should answer every heartbeat. If not, your contact could see you have failed to answer XX heartbeats...

Re:Expiry time? (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187367)

That would just serve to encourage panic. Better for people to falsely consider you safe than to start equating "no internet access" or "asleep" with "probably dead".

Re:Expiry time? (1)

mwfischer (1919758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184681)

Probably a "last checked in at x".

Add in a earthquake/checked in timeline for good measure.

Re:Expiry time? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184941)

I think the point would be to reset it whenever there's a quake.

ie. Not force everybody to wake up every 20 minutes and press the 'alive' button just in case anybody thinks they died in their sleep.

Re:Expiry time? (3, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184947)

What if someone phones and says they're safe...
What if someone emails and says they're safe...
What if someone tweets and says they're safe...
What if someone walks by and says they're safe...

Obviously, "I'm safe" refers to a point in time. So put a timestamp on it. Better yet, put a 'request update' button on the safe status so the person will know that someone is concerned and he should re-post the safe message.

Sue! (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184987)

If Italy can sue scientists for failing to prognosticate an earthquake, can the bereaved relatives of future Japanese disaster victims sue Facebook for the trauma of seeing their loved one was incorrectly shown "Safe" ?

How does this work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184351)

I don't see how clicking "safe" on Facebook is suppose to protect you from a disaster. Do they send people?

Re:How does this work? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184549)

After geolocating your safe-click they will send there a stylish white-on-blue t-shirt with the custom text "I survived the $disaster", the backside having the Facebook logo.

That's great (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184365)

When will Slashdot get that feature? I'm tired of manually announcing that information every time I post on this site.

I am safe. (up 32 years, 2 users, load averages: 0.35 0.54 0.53)

what happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184467)

if you are perfectly fine.. but can't access a computer or dont know about this feature? does everyone panic and lose their minds in anticipation?

Better hope Death has no sense of humor (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184469)

Kinda tempting fate eh? I can just picture the gods going "we will see about that".

What happens when the disaster is over? (4, Insightful)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184473)

Facebook statuses (like married, in a relationship, etc) are sticky.

What happens when the earthquake is done, the tsunami hasn't arrived yet and your status says "I'm safe".

Next thing the tidal wave hits, wiping out your house, your phone line, your computer and the local cell phone mast, your status is still showing "I'm safe" when you're anything but safe.

When will Facebook automagically reset your status to something neutral? Is that going to happen at midnight UTC, midnight PST or midnight local (JST if you're in Japan)? How is braindead Facebook going to handle that? (BTW my answer to that is badly.) How is Facebook going to work with daylight saving time (which may or may not be in effect)?

I cancelled my Facebook membership on 9th Dec 2011 (because I got bored with all the changes they kept making and all the over commercialisation), I have to say I've not missed getting 20 new photos of my brother's cats posted everyday.

Re:What happens when the disaster is over? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184555)

If you got bored with what people posted on their walls then the problem is your friends, not facebook. Get better friends and quit whining.

Re:What happens when the disaster is over? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184997)

The exact same thing happens no matter how you communicate the message - in person, phone, tweet, email, snail mail, etc. It is always about a point in time. So put a timestamp on the message.

Re:What happens when the disaster is over? (1)

loom_weaver (527816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185379)

I'm safe - as of Tue Feb 28 7:32 AM Pacific.

Re:What happens when the disaster is over? (1)

ben_kelley (234423) | more than 2 years ago | (#39192585)

I have to say I've not missed getting 20 new photos of my brother's cats posted everyday

You're right. It would be confusing for his page to let you know which cats were safe and which were not. I suspect in this situation it would be clearer to get a fb page for each cat.

testing (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184495)

Does testing this feature in japan mean they're expecting a disaster there in the near future?

Re:testing (1)

borrrden (2014802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185203)

Actually, kind of. The Tokyo area is overdue for its huge quake that happens approximately very 70 years. The University of Tokyo is giving it a 70% chance of happening within the next 4 years. []

Timestamp (1)

programmerar (915654) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184827)

It should be coupled with a timestamp, eg "I'm ok @ 2012-02-28 10:12". Things can happen in a short time in a disaster zone. Good feature nonetheless!

Shouldn't it say: (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185039)

"Safe for now.... posted at 10:01EST" I mean, what if the aftershock gets them? Who's going to update their status to "Dead"?

Facebook in Japan? (1)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185053)

A neat idea, but this really is only effective if everyone is using generally the same social network(s). Facebook might be gaining popularity in Japan, but it is still severely underrepresented and unpopular (only about 2% of internet users) compared to other services like mixi and GREE. Of course I understand Facebook just wants to test the feature in an area prone to earthquakes and tsunamis with plans for global expansion, but that type of service would frankly be better served according to regional preferences. As far as a globally popular option goes, Twitter would be a better carrier for the "I'm safe" service in Japan and just about everywhere else.

Then again, this "I'm safe" thing is really only beneficial to personally identifiable profiles. That works fine for Facebook where you have to use your real name, but the main reason Japan is less inclined toward Facebook is because they prefer anonymity and pseudonyms. Telling the internet you are safe is of no use to your family or anyone else when they don't know who is behind the pseudonym. Again, that's not to say it couldn't work elsewhere, but it's interesting that Facebook chose Japan of all places to do this when they have probably the poorest market share there. Or, maybe it's just a clever ploy to gain popularity in Japan.

Re:Facebook in Japan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187313)

My God, you're right! Without globally declaring my real identity nobody will know who I really am. No wonder I can't keep in touch with real-life friends or family using my pseudonymous email address. /sarcasm

Will there be a 'dead' tag too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39185477)

You know - so the dead can update their status too.

Ad Servers / Limited Bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39186309)

So will Facebook be turning off the ad servers and serving minimal pages after such a disaster, when presumably hundreds of thousands of people will be attempting to access it thought a network with severely depleted bandwidth in order to tag themselves as 'safe'?

Thought not.

Why? (1)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186457)

Why would you need a special "safe" message? The usuial "I'm sitting on the toilet now" status updates already let you know that somebody is alive, since they're timestamped (and often geotaged as well).

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39186683)

I shit, therefore I am.

Geoblocking (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187967)

As in, requires a Japanese IP? I can come up with one of those, probably!

Or, as in, requires a Japanese IP and a .jp address? That's harder.

A Start (1)

Pool_Noodle (1373373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39192773)

This is actually an interesting Idea, albeit in need of more thought and planning. I live in Alabama ... you know ... right where the tornadoes tried to vacuum the land clean in April of 2011. [] . Granted this wasn't nearly as disastrous as Fukishima or New Orleans, but power was down, roads cut off, cellular communications disrupted. During this whole time the city, local power co-op, County EMA, were using Facebook as a means to get messages to the people and get reports back from them - served not only as a morale booster for everyone but relayed vital information about shelters and supply areas quickly to the sneaker-nets that spread information further. Was it perfect, hell no. But it helped, and as others have pointed out, this is no where near a "ready for production" idea, but with refinement it might turn out to be a useful idea.
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