A suspected Boko Haram bombing in Nigeria has prompted Facebook to activate its Safety Check. Before the Paris bomb and gun attacks, this feature was restricted to natural disasters. Nigerians say it helped them.
Facebook's Safety Check feature normally allows users to mark themselves as safe after natural disasters, but not after bombings or attacks.
A suicide bombing, blamed on Boko Haram extremists, killed 32 and wounded 80 people in Yola, capital of Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria on Tuesday evening.
It was the third suicide bombing in as many months in a city overflowing with some of the two million refugees driven from their homes by the Islamist insurgency. The sound of the explosion could be heard throughout the city. Local police said most of the victims were vendors or passersby.
At least 17,000 people have been killed in the violence during the six years of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Tina, who was in Yola when the bomb detonated, told DW that her parents in Lagos tried to reach her but they couldn't, so they sent her a message through Facebook. "I replied to them immediately telling them we were OK in my area and nothing had happened."
Facbook had helped reassure anxious relatives at a distance of around 1000 kilometers (650 milies) even without its Safety Check.
But the feature was welcomed by Hamza, a Facebook user and resident of northeastern Nigeria, who told DW "I received safety checks from all my friends and well-wishers. Those who are safe mark that they are safe. I really appreciate the effort of Facebook."
'I wish to commend Facebook'
Such plaudits for the online social networking service and US corporate entity stand in contrast to criticism from some Nigerians who accused it of valuing the lives of Western victims more than those of other regions.
Nigerian users told DW they welcomed Mark Zuckerberg's decision to activate 'Safety Check' after the Yola bombing
Such sentiments were heard when Facebook decided to activate Safety Check as news of the Paris attacks was unfolding because of the level of activity on its network, which boasts more than one and a half billion users. People in Paris were posting to let their friends know they were safe, Alex Schultz, Facebook vice president of growth, wrote in a weekend post.
But Safety Check had not been activated for suicide bombings in Beirut a day earlier, prompting allegations of double standards.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's Chief Executive, then posted that Safety Check would be used more often in future. "After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward," he said.
"We activated Safety Check again after the bombing in Nigeria," he added.
Jamilia told DW "being the first time I wish to commend Facebook hoping that they will keep it up. I received so many notifications from my friend, family and well-wishers confirming that they were safe from the Yola blast."
Political analyst Anas Bamusa said that "for Facebook to identify with us at this period of grief has given us much more hope and confidence in them."
Muntaqa Ahiwa and Muhammad Al-Amin contributed to this report