Facebook’s Latest Dilemma: The Active Pages of the Deceased

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Now that Facebook is aging, and more and more older users are signing up, there are plenty of Facebook pages out there left behind by people who have passed away. The Times tackles this modern dilemma today, pointing out that Facebook, lately, has been upsetting some users by telling them to "get in touch" with a dead person, since the company has "had trouble automating the task of figuring out when one of its users has died." Since that weird sidebox urging you to to talk to people who clearly you aren't talking to for a reason is annoying even when it suggests you write on the Facebook wall of a living person, you can imagine how awkward it gets when it tells you to write on the wall of someone who isn't. The Times explains:


"That can lead to some disturbing or just plain weird moments for Facebook users as the site keeps on shuffling a dead friend through its social algorithms. 'It’s a very sensitive topic,' said Meredith Chin, a company spokeswoman, 'and, of course, seeing deceased friends pop up can be painful.' Given the site’s size, 'and people passing away every day, we’re never going to be perfect at catching it.'"

Whereas early on Facebook "would immediately erase the profile of anyone it learned had died," the company now recognizes "the importance of finding a way to preserve those pages as a place where the mourning process can be shared online." A little-known Facebook option: If you fill out a form and prove a Facebook user is dead, you can convert his or her profile into a "tribute page." Still, many profiles are just staying active, often functioning, we've noticed, as outlets for people to address late loved ones in surprisingly un-self-conscious ways. But now the company has to decide if it will let a Facebook page exist forever, long after its user is gone.

'As Facebook Users Die, Ghosts Reach Out' [NYT]