In the wake of the attacks in Paris last month, a number of companies showed their solidarity towards France by making a number of gestures that were both touchingly symbolic, and practical.
It’s a sensitive time and nobody wants to be seen to be capitalising on the recent tragedy, but the technology companies involved have developed tools for use in times of crises and disaster. These technology tools were redeployed in an attempt to provide support for anyone in need.
In the days after Friday 13th November, Facebook enabled a “safety check” tool where their software automatically sent a notification to users in the affected area, asking them if they were safe. If they selected “yes” then a message was sent to their Facebook friends and family letting them know that they were ok.
A profile picture that displayed the tricolour flag in the background was also offered to its users, allowing them to change their profile pictures to include the colours of France.
Google provided free phone calls to France via Google Hangouts for anyone who wanted to get in touch with their friends or family. The YouTube logo was also changed to incorporate the French flag and a “We Stand With Paris” banner was displayed in the centre of the page.
The homepage of Amazon was updated to include a picture of the French flag with the word “Solidarite”.
Learning from its mistakes during the Sydney hostage crisis in 2014 when it charged four times the price for a cab ride, Uber put a stop to any increase in taxi fares in an attempt to get people home safely. The company states that almost all of its cab drivers were occupied during the night.
In its defence, Uber stated that the original increase in fees was an attempt to encourage taxi drivers to Martin Place in Sydney. It has since apologised and re-funded any additional charges.
Much like Google, Skype made all international and local calls to France free of charge. They outlined their assistance in a blog post where they stated:
“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these terrible events in Paris”
It’s not the first time Skype have helped out in a crisis, with a similar free service offered for all calls within Nepal after the devastating earthquake in April, 2015.
The current Reddit mascot can be seen holding a French flag. The mascots usual happy face has also been changed to reflect a more somber mood in a sign of solidarity for the people of France.
Airbnb – a website where you can find places to stay with local hosts – put into place a disaster relief programme where anyone who was displaced in Paris could stay with a selection of Airbnb hosts for free.
Although not the first time Airbnb has helped out with accommodation in times of need, this is the first time the website has taken care of people affected by a man-made tragedy.
In a series of emails to their hosts they asked:
“If you are able, we hope you will strongly consider helping those who are in need by making your listing available at little or no cost”
Using the hashtag #PorteOuverte, Twitter assisted people caught in tragedy last Friday by trying to find them a safe place to stay. Usage is reported at 1 million tweets in 10 hours, with an average of 7,000 tweets a second at its peak.
The company also made use of its new functionality called “Moments”. This is a feature where the latest & most popular tweets taking place throughout the world are shown to its users. The content is supplied by Twitter in conjunction with a selection its partners to serve as a source of news for people following the crisis.
One of the most popular tweets was a painting by French artist Jean Jullien accruing 59,869 re-tweets.
While technology often gets blamed for the dehumanisation of society, with everyone’s noses perpetually buried in their phones, in this instance it’s refreshing to see how these organisations and their technology are helping to bring people together in times of need.
This post was written by Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses and entrepreneurs with company formation in France, UK, Europe, US & the Emirates.