In the past, Facebook has struggled as to how to deal with the accounts of members who die. Yes, grieving friends and relatives are able to turn deceased members’ accounts into memorial pages, but not everyone wants to do that, and others need time to do so.
In that period Facebook’s social algorithm – which has been finely tuned to encourage as many interactions as possible – sometimes puts its virtual foot in it by encouraging friends to get in touch with the dead or by including them in photo montages by mistake.
According to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook has been giving this problem a lot of thought, as well as how to better allow its living members to honour the dead.
In a blog post written yesterday, Sandberg wrote: “We know the loss of a friend or family member can be devastating — and we want Facebook to be a place where people can support each other while honouring the memory of their loved ones.”
Sandberg then went on to outline three ways in which Facebook is trying to improve things. Firstly, the company says it’s working on improving the artificial intelligence employed to avoid profiles of dead users appearing at unwelcome times. “If an account hasn’t yet been memorialised, we use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends,” Sandberg wrote. “We’re working to get better and faster at this.”
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Additionally, Facebook is changing the way memorialised profiles are laid out, adding a section for tributes from friends and family. The idea here is that the deceased’s timeline will remain unchanged, rather than being gradually eroded by messages from contacts after their death. It looks like this:
Finally, Facebook has added additional control to the adoptive owners of memorial accounts. Where previously these functions were limited to updating pictures and pinning posts at the top, owners can now moderate tributes, edit tags and change who can see posts in order to help them “manage content that might be hard for friends and family to see if they’re not ready.”
“We’ll continue to build on these changes as we hear more feedback,” Sandberg finishes. “We hope Facebook remains a place where the memory and spirit of our loved ones can be celebrated and live on.”
Does Facebook do a good job of handling grief sensitively? We’d like to know your thoughts: @TrustedReviews.