Facebook’s Safety Check feature erroneously said that there was an explosion in Bangkok, Thailand, according to reports. Residents of Thailand’s capital saw reports of an explosion, lasting for an hour beginning Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. local time, prompting them to mark themselves as “safe,” which is one of the features of Facebook’s Safety Check, sort of a bulletin notification scheme tasked to let users inform others of their safety during calamities.
Facebook’s False Alarm
The Safety Check is powered partly by an algorithm that wrings multiple news sources and users’ own posts to surmise possible disasters happening in a given geographical area. In this case, the algorithm falsely regarded fake news to confirm a faux explosion.
The Safety Check appears to have been activated by a minor incident, where an individual hurled ping pong-sized firecrackers at a government building as a gesture of protest, The Independent reports, citing local news.
Saksith Saiyasombut, a Channel NewsAsia correspondent, shared a screenshot of the Safety Check feature via Twitter, stating that the top hit was merely a news-scraping site, not a valid and legitimate news source.
Luckily, the false alarm didn’t exceed over an hour, although a lot can still happen in that time frame, especially since terrorist attacks have retained their position on several nations’ list of active fears, given the number of tragic incidents that have occurred recently, including the Paris attacks last year in November, and the shooting of the Orlando Pulse gay nightclub earlier this year.
Facebook’s many algorithms have been the target of heavy criticism lately, especially with the advent of fake news on the site, which some pundits have opined helped President-elect Donald Trump’s eventual victory. Facebook recently sought the help of third-party fact checkers to combat this proliferation of misleading news on its site, alongside cutting advertising space for spoof and fake news sites.
Safety Check Wasn’t Triggered By Fake News
Facebook has now told The Verge that its misleading citation of an explosion in Bangkok wasn’t triggered by fake news. According to a spokesperson, the aforementioned firecracker incident was what caused the Safety Check to go off.
Safety Check Algorithm
To elaborate, Facebook’s Safety check feature has two algorithms. The first one monitors newswire agencies for reports culled directly from police departments; the second gleans from posts on the social networking site that speaks about reported incidents. Once a certain number of users allude to an incident, the feature activates.
What happened in this case, at least according to Facebook, was that its Safety Check feature determined the explosion from an otherwise benign protest incident, with the algorithm further spurred on by locals posting about it. Source: Techtimes