#Prayforparis: Standing in solidarity with France, one tweet at a time

From French-flag inspired Facebook profiles to #muslimsarenotterrorists push-back on Twitter, response to Paris attacks overtook social media.

The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Social media was flooded this week with reactions to Fridays' deadly terror attacks in Paris which killed 129 people and wounded hundreds of others.

Responses to the Islamic State attacks have varied greatly, from the #PrayforParis condolences, (usually accompanied by a Facebook-created French flag overlay on a profile picture), to the angry--and at times Islamophobic-- lamentations, blaming  Islam for the tragic events in the French capital.
Other social media reactions to the murderous spree in Paris, included indignation for what they viewed as unequal global uproar over recent terror attacks purportedly carried out by Islamists in Kenya and Nigerian.
In regard to the Paris attacks, Israeli Facebook users prevalently responded in solidarity with France and expressing their empathy.

Israel stands with Paris. Israel mourns with Paris. Israel will do everything it can to fight the terror that struck Paris. Israel prays for Paris. #Paris #PrayForParis

Posted by The Israel Project on Friday, November 13, 2015

These responses, in turn, sparked further reactions. Some criticized the condolences and profile picture-changing motifs, as "naive" and "meaningless" and ineffectual. Others decried the blameful rants against Islam for being racist, responding with the hashtag #muslimsarenotterrorists to combat the stereotype. 

Outrage on behalf of victims of lesser-highlighted attacks were reprimanded for turning the attention away from the French, but also commended for bringing an apparent media bias to light.

So, what is social media actually doing to help?   

Facebook, in addition to encouraging its users to change their profile pictures to support France, activated a "safety check" feature to allow people to send a notification to their friends marking that they’re safe from harm.
The feature has in the past been made available in disaster-stricken areas, such as during the earthquake in Chile and Nepal earlier this year  
However, there was push-back from Facebook users over the social media giant's use of the "safety check" feature for Paris,
but not for Beirut, where more than 40 were killed in bombings the day before. Facebook responded, explaining that it had, until the Paris attacks, only used the feature for natural disasters but would start to use it more frequently.  

Twitter, thanks to its rapid-fire nature, had many Parisians tweeting helpful information seconds after the attack. The hashtag #PorteOuverte, meaning “Open door,” was created for potential victims to find shelter in other resident’s homes as authorities urged people to evacuate the streets moments after the attack.

The hashtag trended globally, with more than 600,000 hits in the few hours after its creation.  A Twitter handle, @PorteOuverteFRA, was made to tweet and retweet phone numbers and addresses of people who used the #porteouverte hashtag to spread the word to anyone in dire need of safety.


A post from @LaraPlowright, written in mixed English and French, read: "Anyone stuck around gare du nord area, si besoin (if needed) #porteouverte quartier Gare du Nord, peut loger 2-3 personnes (can accommodate 2-3 people)."