How Zuckerberg's Nigeria Safety Button Post Makes Facebook Look More Biased Than Ever

19/11/2015 5:28 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Mark Zuckerberg at TechCrunch Disrupt 2012. For publication rights, contact JD Lasica at

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the 'Safety Check' has been activated in Nigeria following the bombings on Tuesday that killed over 30 people. Within minutes, many started thanking the Facebook CEO for the 'amazing gesture'.

"Thank you for supporting peace, liberty, equality and empathy and solidarity. I hope this is just the first step in a road towards a better and more united world," read one of the comments.

Zuckerberg also announced that the 'Safety Check' will be used for 'more tragic events' in the future.

ALSO READ: Zuckerberg Announces 'Safety Check' For Nigeria After Outrage On Facebook's 'Selective Outrage'

So, why has Facebook suddenly decided to expand the 'Safety Check' button to several places? It's possibly because of the outrage it faced when it allowed the change of profile picture to support France and the people of Paris, after the terror attack in which 129 people were killed.

The move resulted in criticism from users, who pointed out that Facebook hadn't done the same for the Beirut bombings a day prior, which had killed dozens of people and injured over 200 others.

ALSO READ: Why I Won't Be Changing My Facebook DP In Solidarity With Paris

While Zuckerberg's gesture comes following a backlash on social media against the 'selective outrage' of Facebook, we must admit that it is much appreciated.

However, there's something majorly wrong with the 31-year-old CEO's announcement. In the statement, he says, that it won't be possible for him to post about all the incidents, because, "unfortunately, these kinds of events are all too common."

"Too common", Mr Zuckerberg?

Yes, the deaths in Nigeria, Syria and may other such places are far more frequent compared to the 'uncommon' attack in Paris. But that doesn't make them common. By calling it 'common', the Facebook CEO essentially says that violence is normalised in certain countries while it isn't in some others. And therefore, we should react with more concern when a terror strike takes place in a country where such attacks are less frequent than in others.

So, while it's normal for people to die in terror attacks in some places, it isn't in some others--at least, that's what Zuckerberg's statement sounds like.

According to the Global Terrorism Index report, of the 17,958 people who died in terrorist attacks in 2013, 82 percent were in one of five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. The numbers say that the deaths are frequent and the condition in these places are deplorable. It doesn't make it 'common.'

Zuckerberg says that Facebook is committed to doing their "part to help people in more of these situations." In that case, shouldn't there be a 'Safety Check' button in these locations 24x7?

Earlier, in another post, Zuckerberg had said that "people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places. Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well."

"We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can," he said. Now if we care about all people 'equally', why should one country deserve more attention that the other? Just because the incidents are 'common'?

Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya. In the Middle East, there are 23,811,620 users of Facebook (2012 data), out of a population of 127 million. In fact, the daily growth of Facebook users in Middle East is larger than the average percentage of the world. Compare that to the population of Europe that's on Facebook-- 250,934,000, out of a total population of 742.5 million.

This means, a lot of people are already on Facebook and these users surely have a role to play in generating revenue for the company. That apart, if Facebook can lend itself to people in Paris so that they can tell friends and family that they are safe during a tragedy, it's fairly obvious how much that can help people in other countries too.

Also, one wonders how Facebook intends to determine which incidents are 'common' and which aren't? Because, all these terror strikes involve loss of human lives. So, how indeed does Facebook decide which life is more precious?

And that makes us wonder if the 'safety button' for Nigeria is just a feeble exercise in damage control instead of arising from genuine concern.

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