A Big Mis-quake

09 August 2018 | Aaron Wise

Earthquakes might look cool in Hollywood blockbusters overloaded with CGI, but ask anyone who has experienced one and chances are they won’t have the same outlook.

Last Sunday, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing more than 300 people and causing mass destruction to the tourist destination.

It was one of three earthquakes to have struck Lombok in the past 15 days, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Sunday, July 29 and a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island this morning.

The powerful tremors were that widespread they hit the neighbouring holiday haven of Bali, with videos uploaded to social media showing tourists fleeing hotels and heading to the airport.

People the world over have been sending their condolences to the victims and those now stranded without homes following the disaster, many of which came in the form of posts on Facebook.

As you can imagine, most of the messages were posted by Indonesians, who frequently used the word ‘selamat’, meaning ‘unhurt’ e.g. ‘I hope those trapped on the island can evacuate unhurt’, or ‘Don’t worry, I am unhurt’.

But selamat can also mean ‘congratulations’ depending on the context. Can you see where this going yet?

So, thousands of Indonesians were writing these heartfelt messages of support only to find that once they posted the message, they were met with an array of colourful animated balloons and confetti filling their screens. Not ideal.

This is because Facebook recently added a feature that triggers ‘celebrations’ once someone posts a message featuring the word congratulations, in any given language.

As you can imagine, there was immediate outrage, especially from those who were mourning loved ones.

Although Facebook was quick to rectify the issue by disabling the trigger feature in Indonesia, it upset a lot of people and certainly won’t do its brand any favours.

I mean, I understand there are thousands of languages and that one word might have several different meanings, but you can’t really excuse the social media giant for throwing confetti in the face of those directly and indirectly affected by the earthquake. So that's bad PR for you, Facebook!