How Japan quake drove Facebook adoption, Facebook Safety Check

Facebook Safety Check.
Facebook Safety Check.

The 2011 disaster brought Facebook to prominence in Japan. It also inspired a new tool for global users to connect in a crisis

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan has inspired Facebook to launch Safety Check, a new tool to help users communicate during a crisis.

During a major disaster, Facebook said, Safety Check will help you alert friends and family that you’re safe, check on others in the affected area, and mark your friends as safe.

"In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates," according to a statement on the social-media site. "It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families anxious for news."

The tool uses location data to determine if a user is in an affected area and sends a notification asking for an update. An "I’m Safe" button allows users to quickly post a notification and News Feed story with their status. Friends can also mark a user as safe.

How it works:

Prior to the crisis in Japan in 2011, the country had not adopted Facebook as highly as in other parts of the world. Writing for Campaign Asia-Pacific at the time, Gary Klugman, former strategic planning director for TBWA Hakuhodo Japan, said that although awareness of the platform was high, users in Japan "weren’t ready to accept Facebook into their social-media milieu."

"At the end of 2010, Facebook had yet to break the two million-user mark," Klugman said. "Facebook was like that little red circle one that lingered, waiting to be 'ignored' or 'accepted.' Then, disaster struck."

Following the crisis, Facebook in Japan experienced a huge increase in user numbers. "During that crisis we saw how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about," Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook engineers started working on a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster. The company launched its Disaster Message Board, which made it easier to communicate with others during a crisis.

"These events have taught us a lot about how people use Facebook during disasters, and we were personally inspired to continue work on the Disaster Message Board to incorporate what we’ve learned. This project soon became Safety Check, which will be available globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and desktop."

This article first appeared on

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