Facebook is expanding its Community Help feature to let neighbors request and offer assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has announced. The feature first launched back in 2017 as a way for people to help each other aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, but now it’s being expanded to help with the health crisis. The feature is rolling out now in the US, UK, France, Australia, and Canada, and will be coming to more countries in the coming weeks.
You can get to Facebook’s Community Help section via the COVID-19 Information Center that can be found at the top of the News Feed, or by heading to the section directly. Once there, you can filter by posts which are offering or requesting help, and you can also select which kinds of help you’re looking for with categories like baby supplies, transport, or food. Individual posts list how far away the person is from you, and you can then respond with a comment publicly, or reply privately.
NextDoor launched a similar Help Map two weeks ago, but Facebook’s larger user base and the Help feature’s prominent placement could give it much greater reach. Facebook also allows users to request help, as well as offering it (NextDoor only allowed users to offer help) and it doesn’t rely on users posting their locations on a map — you only see the distance another user is from you.
If you’re considering offering to help via Facebook’s new feature, then be sure to follow the advice of health authorities like the WHO or CDC by, for example, washing your hands regularly and following social distancing advice. Most importantly, be sure to follow self-isolation guidelines if you or anyone you’ve recently interacted with has had any flu-like symptoms. It might feel good to help your neighbors, but you could be doing more harm that good if you’re risking passing on an infection.