Facebook activated Safety Check for the first time in Iraq on Sunday, following a suicide bombing in Baghdad. The explosion claimed the lives of at least 175 people, the Associated Press reports, making it one of the worst attacks in Iraq in more than a decade.
Baghdad was a deadly war zone during the nine-year Iraq War that started in 2003. Iraq’s beleaguered capital city of more than 7 million now faces constant threat from ISIS — a website called Iraq Body Count notes the number of civilian deaths in all of Iraq jumped from just under 10,000 in 2013 to 20,000 in 2014. Baghdad has seen explosions kill as many as 70 people at a time this year. Sunday’s attack, however, was the deadliest single-incident attack since 2007, Voice of America reports.
The extent of the death and destruction helps explain why Facebook chose to enable Safety Check in a city that is no stranger to tragedy.
Safety Check started in October 2014 as a way for people to notify friends and family after a natural disaster. The service was activated outside of a natural disaster for the first time in November 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and has since been used during other terrorist attacks, including the ones in Brussels and Orlando.
How Facebook chooses which tragedies Safety Check is used for isn’t exactly clear. Facebook caught flak for having a Western bias when it comes to enabling Safety Check after enabling the service in Paris. It has since been used in Turkey, Nigeria, and Pakistan (although a bug caused Safety Check to show up in areas not affected).
Sunday’s Safety Check might show a more broad range of use in the future, especially in parts of the Middle East that are more affected by terrorism. Sadly, the need for the service doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.