First off, I would like to say that my prayers are with the people of Paris and France during these horrific times. In wake of the attacks that occurred in Paris, people from all different countries took to social media for timely and accurate information. I am going to examine the roles Facebook and Twitter played in spreading information in the midst of chaos.
Facebook used their safety check tool to let family members and friends from around the world know their loved ones in Paris were safe. Although this tool has been activated 5 times in the last year for natural disasters, this was the first time Facebook activated this tool for this type of event. In a time of crisis, Facebook has become a place where people are sharing information and looking to find out information pertaining to their loved ones. On Saturday, Facebook reported over 4 million people used this feature to let friends and loved ones know they were safe. About 360 million people around the world received a notification from one of the 4 million people.
Facebook also provided a profile picture frame available globally for users to show support for France and the people of Paris. This frame can be paired with ones existing profile picture to create a temporary or permanent picture. This frame is simple and easy to apply, and an outstanding number of users are adopting this frame to show support.
Lastly, Facebook is allowing people to share their stories and experiences in Paris across the world. One example, a lady by the name of Isobel Bowdery, posted a picture of her bloody vest on Facebook accompanied by her survival story. These stories give people from all around the world the ability to hear first-hand experiences of these horrific events. News reports can be confusing and misleading, but survivor stories give a more personal accounts that describe the atrocities that took place. Isobel’s story can be found here, but be aware her story contains graphic content.
Twitter used the new moments feature to release recent news about the attacks and share supportive tweets from celebrities. Additionally, many hashtags were used to create an information flow that helped bring people to safety. #PorteOuverte, which means “Open the door,” was used to provide shelter to those in Paris who needed a safe place to go. According to Twitter, there were 1 million tweets with the #PorteOuverte tag in 10 hours. Along with strangers opening up their homes, cab drivers offered free rides to people due to the lack of public transportation.
The hashtag #prayforparis allowed people from all around the world to come together and support the people of France. This hashtag received over 6 million hits in a 10 hour period. The hashtag #RechercheParis contained descriptions of loved ones as well as requests for information. It also provided updates when someone is found alive. This hashtag had one million hits in 24 hours. Finally, #unebougiepourparis (a candle for Paris) provided support in a time of darkness. Twitter helped formed communities between people in search of family members, shelters, or hope.
France’s justice ministry and its national police force used Twitter on Friday to issue advice and information via social media. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and also used Twitter to send a message to his country’s people saying, “Facing terror, there is a nation that knows how to defend, able to mobilize its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.” Twitter allows the president to send a message to the people of France while the attacks are happening without having to jeopardize his safety.
Social media plays a crucial role in providing safety and support for people affected by the attacks, and allows information to travel quickly around the world. Social media will continue to play a crucial role in learning more about the attacks as people can share new and relevant information from their experiences.