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Facebook activates Safety Check after Orlando massacre, its first use in US

Tool for informing contacts that you are safe turned on after gunman kills at least 50 people in Orlando, Florida, night club.

Facebook turns on Safety Check tool after the deadliest mass shooting in US history

Facebook activated its Safety Check tool to help people near the site of a deadly shooting early Sunday in Orlando, Florida let friends and loved ones know they are safe, the first time it has done so in the US.

The tool was activated after a man with an assault-style weapon killed at least 50 people inside a gay night club in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in US history. At least another 53 were injured, authorities said.

"Earlier this month, we began testing features that allow people to both initiate and share Safety Check on Facebook," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "Over the last few months, we have improved the launch process to make it easier for our team to activate more frequently and faster, while testing ways to empower people to identify and elevate local crises as well."

Safety Check automatically sends Facebook users in an affected area a note asking if they're safe. When a user clicks on "yes, let my friends know," the tool notifies their Facebook friends. The social network tool -- also activated earlier this year after terrorist bombings struck the airport and subway in Brussels, Belgium -- is one of the many ways the Internet has become an essential tool in responding to crises.

Safety Check was activated for the first time as a response to terrorism following the Paris attacks in November. Until then, it had only been used after natural disasters.