The Paris Attacks and the Social Media Reaction

Nov 14, 2015


We often think of social media as a way to connect with friends online or even how to build a business. But social media is so much more and its power to do good is just starting to be harnessed. With the unspeakable terrorist acts that have occurred in Paris, social media has risen to offer aid and establish lines of communications between those on the front lines and families. Here we will explore some of the ways that social media has played an important role in this weekend’s events.

Facebook Safety Check

Facebook activated Safety Check for users in Paris, France. Safety Check is a system that Facebook created in October of 2014 to help families connect with loved ones during times of disaster. Previously this system has only been used for natural disasters but for the first time, Facebook activated the system so that people in Paris could let their online families know that they were safe. The system asks users who it determines are in the affected area through location services if they are safe. The user can indicate whether they are okay or if they are not in the area. It also allows users to see which of their friends are in the area and whether or not they have marked themselves safe.

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The Paris tragedy brought to the foreground one of the newest technologies that has digital marketers talking, Periscope. This app allows users to “discover the world through someone else’s eyes.” It broadcasts the video from one person’s cell phone so that others can see what is going on in different parts of the world. One of the unique aspects of this app is that you can pull up feeds by where they are located in the world. As the attacks occurred, feeds opened so people and news sources could see what was going on live. While news teams were racing to the scene to grab footage, online feeds were already showing the horror from the front line.


Twitter has been one of the most real-time sources for news over social media. In the United States, people have received tweets about earthquakes occurred to others before they felt the earth move themselves. During the Paris tragedy, Twitter users used the hashtag #PorteOuverte, or “open door,” to allow people into their homes. This is one of the first times that this social platform has been used to offer aid during a tragedy.

Google Hangouts

The Google Hangouts app allows users to communicate with people around the world via chat, voice phone calls and video chat. Typically international voice calls are billed to a user’s credit card. In the aftermath of the Paris tragedy, Google has suspended charging clients calling friends and relatives in Paris for the weekend.

J.K. Rowling wrote “we do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” We carry that power in ourselves and in our pockets.

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