As the attacks in Paris were still unfolding on Friday night, social media sites lit up as sources for information that went beyond the news.
Facebook activated its Safety Checktool, which allows users in an area affected by a crisis to mark themselves or others as safe. Facebook created the tool to help in times of crisis, a spokeswoman, Anna Richardson White, said on Saturday, and it has activated it five times in the last year after natural disasters. But this was the first time it was activated for something like this, she said.
“People turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates, which is why we created Safety Check and why we have activated it for people in Paris,” Ms. White said.
She said she did not have numbers to show how many people had used the tool, and people were still using it on Saturday.
Facebook is also making a profile picture frame available globally on its official page. “We’re offering our community the chance to change their profile pictures to show support for France and the people of Paris,” Ms. White said.
Twitter, at the same time, put its new Moments tool to use, highlighting top news tweets about the attacks, as well as the prayers and good wishes posted by celebrities around the world, from the actresses Salma Hayek and Emma Watson to the presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, posted just two words on his social network — “So terrible” — with a link to one of the Moments collections.
Twitter quickly turned into a message board on Friday night with information to help people in Paris get to safety. The hashtag #PorteOuverte — “open door” — became a vehicle for offering shelter to those in Paris who needed it. A Twitter spokesman, Christopher Abboud, said on Saturday that there were one million tweets with the hashtag in 10 hours.
The hashtag #prayforparis, the spokesman said, was even more popular, with 6.7 million posts in 10 hours. And the hashtag #StrandedInUS gained a lot of traction in the United States to help French people whose flights had been canceled.
The hashtag #RechercheParis, Mr. Abboud said, accompanied descriptions of loved ones and requests for information, and it was used to share news when someone who had been sought was found alive. He said there were a million tweets with the hashtag within 24 hours.
The hashtag #UneBougiePourParis (a candle for Paris) was also trending, Mr. Abboud said. “As I look out my window, I see a bunch of flickering lights in the Parisian night,” he wrote in an email on Saturday. He added that the streets were deserted, “but people need to connect somehow.”
Twitter became a place to offer support and concern:
— Ben McKee (@benamckee) November 13, 2015
This is very very sad. That’s about all I can say. Thinking of the citizens of France and Paris in particular. LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ. — Matt Farwell (@mattbfarwell) November 14, 2015
Praying for Paris and the world tonight. 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/zPkH6To9qE
— Ben Mader (@benmadermusic) November 14, 2015