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Social Media Saved Lives After the Manchester Terror Attack

Social media platforms became life-saving tools in the aftermath of the Manchester attack, by helping victims to safety and reuniting loved ones.

Social media played a crucial role in the aftermath of the Manchester terrorist attack that killed 22 concertgoers and injured 59. In the hours immediately following the attack, victims took to social media to help find family members and loved ones, and reach out to locals for help. Thanks to the immediate nature of social media posts, both Twitter and Facebook became useful tools as officials and parents struggled to locate victims.

How Facebook Responded

Following early news reports of the attack, Facebook launched its safety check feature, allowing concertgoers to mark themselves as safe. This safety feature was first enabled for an incident of terrorism during the Paris attacks, and it is activated after a crisis agency alerts the platform of a dangerous and ongoing incident. The platform then monitors the situation independently and enables the check as soon as posts regarding the incident pass a specific threshold.

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In one instance, Paula Robinson, 48, was waiting at a train station just outside the arena when the explosion occurred. Immediately taking action, she rounded up more than 50 teens after the attack and took them to a nearby hotel. Robinson then posted her phone number to Facebook, telling parents looking for their children to call her number.

Facebook users also made use of the social media network by sharing pictures of concert goers in an effort to locate missing friends and family members. However, this ability was abused in several instances in which people shared false images of friends or family members supposedly missing in the aftermath of the bombing.

How Twitter Responded

In the immediate hours following the attack, more than 14 million Tweets were posted about the bombing. Many used the hashtag #MissingManchester to locate family members, recruiting the help of others taking shelter at homes and hotels near the stadium to track those missing. Businesses and locals close to the stadium tweeted the hashtag #RoomforManchester, offering food and a place to stay for those stranded by the bombing.

Vicky Bates, a friend of one concertgoer, took to Twitter to find her missing friend whose phone had died. The teen sent out a Tweet asking for help locating her friend: “She’s wearing a yellow hoodie and I can’t get hold of her.” Just after midnight, another teen affected by the attack replied, letting Bates know that her friend was safe. “She’s safe we’re at a premier inn right now on Medlock street. We saw her on the street and her phone was dead so we let her stay with us.” Thanks to Twitter, many others like Bates were able to locate missing friends and loved ones during the attack.