Orlando Shooting Triggers First-Ever Facebook 'Safety Check' in U.S.

People gather as police conduct questioning near Pulse nightclub, in Orlando, Florida.
People gather as police conduct questioning near Pulse night club, in Orlando, Florida. (Reuters)

Facebook Inc activated its "Safety Check" function on Sunday for the first time in the United States after a gunman massacred 50 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The Safety Check, first introduced in October 2014, allows Facebook users to spread the word that they are safe in wake of a natural disaster or a crisis, and allows searches for those who might be in the affected area.

"Waking up this morning, I was horrified to hear about the shooting in Orlando. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the LGBT community," said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on his official account.

A gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Police killed the shooter at the Pulse nightclub, who was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Florida resident and U.S. citizen.

The incident quickly emerged as a top trending topic on Facebook and Twitter with hashtag #PrayforOrlando being one of the top posts throughout the day.

Last year, Facebook vowed to turn on the Safety Check more often during disasters in response to criticism that it enabled the function after Islamic State militant attacks on Paris and not a day earlier when a bomb killed at least 43 people in Beirut.

© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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