Social media plays key role in Paris attacks reaction

The key role of social media in both international and local reaction and mobilisation was evident immediately in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks.

Parisians used social media to share their sympathies, and people on Twitter use the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door) to offer shelter in their homes to those stranded in the French capital.

Similarly, the hashtags #PrayforParis and #ParisAttacks were used to offer messages of support, while #StrandedinUS and #StrandedinCanada developed to offer assistance to those whose travel plans had been disrupted.

Facebook deployed its Safety Check campaign to prompt users in Paris to “check in” to their personal page to let their social network know they were safe. The feature was launched following the Nepal earthquake after being inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

It was the first instance where the feature, previously reserved for natural disasters, was used for a human-caused calamity.

Safety Check determines the location of Facebook users by the city listed on their profile, the last location used in the Nearby Friends product, or where the person last used the internet. The feature also provides a hub page for users to visit and check which of their friends have checked in as safe, or are in the area.

Social media platforms also took a key role in co-ordinating help and spreading information.

Organisations such as Eurostar and Air France used Twitter to relay condolences and update travellers, while the NYPD sent messages of assurance via its account.

Facebook’s recently launched app Notify offered running coverage of the attacks through push notifications.

A variety of other social media channels were used throughout the attack, from the picture app Instagram, where #PrayersForParis was trending, to Vine, where a video from Stade de France offered one of the first verified accounts of the explosion from the stadium and a glimpse into the attacks.

Twitter’s Periscope live-streaming app struggled with the load, however, with the group using Twitter instead to post messages of apology for the disruption to its service.

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