As the whole world is shocked by the events unfolded in France last week, social media mourns and rages over Paris as well. The terrorist attacks killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 in the most violent moments witnessed by the city since the Second World War.
People immediately took to the online realm to express their sorrow and their compassion for the French people, by writing posts and publishing photos near the iconic Eiffel tower. Social media users were also quick to show their fury against the terrorist group behind the attacks, known as ISIS or Daesh.
Posts, photos and videos entered trends on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter with several hashtags: #Paris, #PrayForParis, #PrayForPeace and more. Furthermore, some hashtags had a better utility in the city of lights. French people used the #rechercheParis hashtag, which translates to “searching Paris” in order to find information about their families and friends. Another hashtag used right after the attacks was #PorteOuverte or “Open Door” to let people know in which homes they could hide.
Facebook has introduced several new features overnight. The first and most important one is the Safety Check Tool through which people can mark themselves or others safe after the terrorist attacks and inform their loved ones about their status. The feature was praised as being one of the few really useful measures on the Internet in such cases. However, Facebook also received criticism for not making a similar tool for Beirut in Lebanon, where other terrorist attacks took place just a day before the ones in Paris.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, explained that this was the first time the service was activated for a human disaster, and that it would be used more frequently in the future. Up until now, it has only been used for natural disasters.
The second feature introduced by the media mogul was a template for profile pictures that provides an overlay with the colors of the French flag, blue, white and red, for users who want to show their solidarity.
As social media mourns and rages over Paris, it is important to notice one of the newest roles of online media: that of giving the users the opportunity or possibility to become journalists themselves. Seeing how the horrifying events unfolded last Friday through the eyes of the people that witnessed them is definitely the most realistic account of the incident, unstained by mass media.
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