Facebook today announced new tools to help friends, family members, and significant others remember those who’ve passed away. Starting this week, it’ll begin rolling out a new Tributes section for memorialized accounts, along with additional controls for users who oversee those accounts and “improved AI” that’ll prevent profiles of the deceased from appearing in “painful ways.”
“People turn to Facebook to find community during life’s highs and lows,” wrote Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a blog post, adding that over 30 million people visit memorialized profiles every month. “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 honoring the memory of their loved ones.”
Toward that end, Facebook says that improved AI will more consistently prevent memorialized profiles from showing up in “places that might cause distress,” like event recommendations and birthday reminders. And within the new Tributes section, a tab separate from the original timeline will allow people to contribute memorials and posts.
Legacy contacts — family members and friends designated to care for (and optionally delete) accounts after their owners pass away — can still change the memorialized account’s profile pictures and cover photos and write pinned posts, and they’re responsible for moderating posts shared to Tributes by changing tagging settings and editing who can post and see posts. In related tweaks, parents who have lost children under 18 can now become their legacy contact, and only friends and family members can request to have an account memorialized by submitting a document (such as an obituary or death certificate) to Facebook with the person’s date of passing.
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Sandberg said the updates address criticisms that have been levied at Facebook’s memorialization process in the past — chiefly that anyone, not just friends and family, could request a profile be memorialized, and that child accounts weren’t allowed a legacy contact. (Originally, Facebook held a policy that profiles of people known to be deceased would be removed after 30 days due to privacy concerns, which later evolved into the current memorialization system.) In 2013, it became popular for Facebook users to prank friends by memorializing their accounts and locking them out permanently.
“We’ll continue to build on these changes as we hear more feedback,” Sandberg said. “We hope Facebook remains a place where the memory and spirit of our loved ones can be celebrated and live on … We’re working to get better and faster at this.”
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