Facebook Safety Check Falsely Says a Bomb Exploded in Bangkok

Initially, it appeared the algorithm used unreliable and fake news sources to ‘confirm’ the nonexistent explosion.

Facebook’s Safety Check program incorrectly said there is an explosion in Bangkok, Thailand, The Independent reported. For one hour beginning at 9 p.m. local time on Dec. 27th, anyone in Thailand’s capital city saw reports of an explosion and a prompt to mark themselves as safe. However, there is no actual bomb explosion in Bangkok.

Facebook’s Safety Check system is powered, partly, by an algorithm that pulls from user posts and news sources to determine whether a catastrophic event has occurred. Initially, it appeared the algorithm used unreliable and fake news sources to "confirm" the nonexistent explosion.

Channel NewsAsia correspondent Saksith Saiyasombut shared an image of the news headlines stories Facebook displayed with the Safety Check; the most notable hit was a news-scraping site, not really a way to obtain trusted original reporting, he said.

The "source" of the @Facebook Safety Look for Bangkok: A fake news site that scrapped stuff from elsewhere…! pic.twitter.com/i6Q2k8XBxP

– Saksith Saiyasombut (@SaksithCNA) December 27, 2016

Facebook disabled the safety check at roughly 10 p.m. local time. We’ve reached out to the social media site to find out more on tonight’s false positive in Bangkok and can update this story as we hear back.

Fake news is a thorn in Facebook’s side for months now. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently rolled out an updated system to fight the propagation of untrue and misleading news articles on the webpage, dealing with third-party fact-checkers like Snopes, ABC News and Politifact to flag suspicious stories.

Update: Facebook told The Verge that the fake-news links weren’t linked with today’s Safety Check. Instead, on Dec. 27, a guy threw ping pong-sized firecrackers that appeared as if explosives at a government building in Bangkok; there is no explosion. However, the incident prompted Facebook’s Safety Check.

"Safety Check was activated today in Thailand following an explosion," Facebook said in a statement to The Verge. "Much like all Safety Check activations, Facebook uses trusted alternative party to first confirm the incident and on the city to utilize the tool and tell relatives and buddies."

Facebook hasn’t yet taken care of immediately Engadget’s obtain clarification about how exactly it intends to avoid similar situations later on.

Update 2: Engadget received the same statement from a Facebook spokesperson.

To clarify, Facebook’s Safety Check system employs two algorithms: the first monitors a crisis newswire for reports directly from police departments and other official sources, and the next scours the social media site for people discussing any reported incidents. If enough folks are discussing it, Safety Check is engaged.

In this instance, Facebook’s algorithms were giving an answer to local reports of a guy throwing small explosives at a government building, and users discussing the incident. Although Safety Check alert said there is an explosion, no bombs were actually detonated in Bangkok today.

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