On Friday the 13th we saw the horrific massacre in Paris orchestrated by ISIS. In any time of crisis, your last thought would be to think about how social media is used… During the last 48 hours, all social media outlets have come together in unity to support Parisians.
Olive branches were extended throughout Paris when Twitter’s ‘open door’ #porteouverte surfaced. The premise was that if you were in Paris and in need of shelter, you could use this hashtag and locals would invite you into their homes and provide you with a safe place to eat and sleep.
Facebook introduced a feature on their site in 2014 named “Safety Check” which enables people around any area affected by disaster to check in as ‘safe’ on Facebook so their family and friends could be assured that their loved ones were okay. On Friday, the company turned on a Safety Check for Paris and it has since been used by 4.1 million people. As a result of this, 360 million Facebook users have been notified that their friends and/or family are safe.
Facebook has also given its users an option to filter their profile picture with the French flag, allowing them to show support of Parisians in this time of mourning.
It should be noted that on Friday, social media became the most used platform to break news. Sky was reporting content far slower than Twitter. News was breaking on social media and there was no mention of it on news outlets such as the BBC and Sky up to 30 minutes later. Of course with ‘official’ news outlets, time needs to be given to check facts and confirm source credibility, but Twitter has an advantage over traditional outlets because information is distributed instantly which provides the consumer with immediate consumption.
Along with the humanitarian features we have seen, the trouble with social media taking a dominant role in this humanitarian disaster is that there was also a lot of false information being thrown around. Even though each tweet has a visible date attached to it, we saw an old Donald Trump Tweet from January being mistaken for a new one;
After the explosions outside Stade de France, many people believed there to be an additional attack on the Louvre museum. It was reported that gunfire was heard at the Louvre museum. These reports were false, any unusual police activity around that area was due to the attacks going on in neighbouring districts.
After French President Francois Hollande announced that Paris will have three days of mourning, landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Disneyland will remain closed until the city’s state of mourning is over.
Although there were several misconceptions created on social media, it has been reassuring to see the world use social media to protect and provide those in need with refuge. This is a prominent example showing that social media is evolving. It’s no longer used just to converse and communicate, and on Friday it was used as a humanitarian tool to provide shelter to hundreds.