INTERNATIONAL - Facebook announced on Tuesday that it was rolling out a tool that aims to provide users with potentially life-saving information in emergencies, as it seeks to improve its public image and play down its reputation as a network that aids the spread of misinformation.
Local Alerts, which it has been testing since last year in 300 cities including Charlotte, St. Louis and Miami and now plans to offer across the United States, is intended to provide reliable information to people caught up in events such as mass shootings and extreme weather, it said in a blog post.
Alongside other social media companies, Facebook has faced a barrage of international criticism for the way its platform has been used to spread conspiracy theories and extremist views and it is keen to focus attention instead on its role as a connector of friends and family.
The world’s largest social media network already offers users the ability to let friends know they are safe during emergencies with a feature called Safety Check, but said it wanted to do more.
With Local Alerts, Facebook account holders in local government and among first responders such as the police and fire departments can send out messages that are then spread more widely by Facebook.