Facebook Safety Check Tool Can Improve Security In Nigeria

Facebook Safety Check Tool Can Improve Security In Nigeria

Editor's note: In the modern world heavily relying on social media the latter play the dual role, serving as platforms for hateful comments and manifestations of racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. on the one hand, and on the other hand bringing the world together for multicultural dialouge and problem-solving. In view of security, natural disasters and terrorism issues existing all over the world technologists have taken a bold step in proffering solutions to some of these challenges using mobile software and applications. Yusuf Jimoh Aweda, Legit.ng guest author, talks about the prospects, advantages, effects and challenges of intorducing the Facebook Safety Check tool in Nigeria, which may turn out to be a huge milestone on the way to combatting terrorism in the country.

Safety Check in action

In 2011, during the pathetic Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the Facebook engineers in Japan developed the feature motivated by the popularity of social media. Originally under the name of Disaster Message Board, the feature was renamed to Safety Check prior to its release. It was introduced on October 16, 2014; its first major deployment occured on Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the wake of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake with an estimated loss of a few thousand lives.

The feature played an amazing role in that situation. Activated within a few hours after the earthquake had begun, the Safety Check feature detected users as possibly being in the affected area by their current city as specified in their profiles, as well as the place from which they had most recently accessed Facebook. The desktop version of the tool also provided the summary of what was happening and the emergency contact numbers.

It was deployed again in the wake of the May 2015 Nepal earthquake, and received attention when some people outside the affected area were reported safe by Facebook.

The activation of the feature in Nigeria

After the creation of the French national flag filter by Facebook to support France after the recent terrorist attack in Paris, Facebook was critisised of being selective all over the world; for example, the feature was not activated for the suicide bombings in Beirut a day earlier. As for the feature that allows users to mark themselves as safe, Facebook is known to usually activate it after natural disasters, but not bombings or attacks.

However, Facebook has now been more active in using Safety Check for more tragic events. On November 17, 2015, Safety Check was activated after the deadly blast in Nigeria. This enthralling social media feature can play huge role in the terrorism-affected Nigeria. However, the issue of the Nigerian factors turned up to be a major challenge.


The Nigerian factors 

According to the Social Media Week in 2014, Internet penetration in Africa saw a 5% growth last year increasing from 13% to 18% in comparison to the global internet penetration of 35% accounting for 2.5 billion people. It should be noted that the Internet data from Africa is limited; thus the real figures may be greater. At the same time, Africa had the lowest mobile penetration by region level in the world, accounting for 67%.

However, Nigeria leads the way with the highest number of Internet and particularly Facebook users and active mobile subscriptions, despite South Africa having higher Internet, Facebook and mobile penetration.

There are at least 11 million Facebook users in Nigeria; the possibility of introducing the Facebook Safety Check tool will depend on the awareness of northern Nigerians (where they are more exsposed to the terrorist attacks) about Facebook itself. Nigeria has 32% of Internet penetration compared to South Africa's 41%. The Safety Check tool needs Internet connection to function, and this should be taken into consideration.


The problem of Internet connection and appropriate data subscription have imposed a threat on the functionality of the social media features.

Earlier in 2010 there was a similar safety feature called Google Person Finder. However, commentators noted that due to the low penetration of mobile devices and poor network connectivity, a lot of people in the target audience of the tool were not able to use it. Safety Check may now face similar problems.


There is the need for proper education of Nigerians, especially those residing in the areas that have been attacked by terrorists, on the use of social media for security purposes. The level of technological exposure in France needed to explore the social media opportunities in combating terrorism is quite different from that in Nigeria.

I believe this feature would have its exhilarating impact on the Nigerian security level. But we need to create a welcoming technological ambiance for it.

Yusuf Jimoh Aweda is the director of the Center for Human Rectitude.

The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.

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Source: Legit.ng

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