With roughly 1.86 billion--yes, billion--users, Facebook is dominating the social media space, with fresh features expanding how individuals and companies can use the application. Facebook's latest venture, Community Help, might totally reconfigure how effectively communities can deal with crises.

How Community Help is set to work

As Nathan Olivares-Giles of The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook announced the rollout of Community Help on Wednesday. The feature is an expansion of the preexisting Safety Check option, which allows Facebook users to find out if loved ones are OK during emergencies.

If there is an emergency such as a flood or fire, when you access Safety Check, you'll now see a Community Help map, along with options to request, locate or offer help. You can be specific about the type of help you need, such as food, shelter or transportation. You also can send messages to people who offer you help. The map and options remain available for 60 days.

Preventing trouble

Even though Community Help is designed with a kind purpose, Facebook recognizes that there is a potential for individuals to misuse the service. Subsequently, the company has put together a few basic safeguards. For example, you can't access Community Help unless you are 18 or older. Additionally, Facebook says they intend to blacklist those with "extremely new accounts" and "anyone we have questions about".

Connecting for a bigger purpose

Community Help is just the latest example of Mark Zuckerberg's belief that, with such a widespread user base, Facebook--and technology in general--has the power to do real social good. In August 2016, for example, Zuckerberg met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where Zuckerberg presented the Pope with a solar-powered drone that could help bring Internet service to poor, remote regions. Zuckerberg also famously announced upon the birth of his daughter, Max, that he and his wife eventually would give away their Facebook wealth to charitable purposes.

Naomi Gleit, the vice president of Facebook's Social Good initiative, said, "Our belief is that the community can teach us new ways to use [Facebook] . . . since 2014, Safety Check has been activated hundreds of times, but we know we can do more to empower the community to help one another."

Whether Zuckerberg will make good on his philanthropic goals remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Community Help likely will be a welcome relief to social workers, police, emergency responders and similar personnel, who often rely on volunteers during disasters to deal with the resulting chaos. Community Help well might relieve some of the burden those professionals experience, playing a role in managing and matching resources.

Currently, Facebook is rolling out Community Help in only a few areas, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Saudi Arabia. The plan, however, is to expand the service to more regions over time, and to use it for a broader range of emergencies, as well.

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Published on: Feb 9, 2017
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