Facebook has a staggering number of users— in excess of 2 Billion. Estimates suggest that 8,000 of these users die every day. But do they really? It’s shockingly easy to convince Facebook of a death, much to the chagrin of multiple users deemed to be dead, who are very much alive. By simply clicking the Memorialization Request page, comporting a form including a link to an obituary, anybody can have an account memorialized.
Once this happens, the ‘deceased’ person is locked out of their own account. To undo the “death,” the deceased must prove they are alive by completing a lengthy reinstatement form. A frustrating wait, during which time they must reassure friends and family that they are indeed still among the living, is often part of the unwelcome ordeal.
Recently, yc.news spoke to four such individuals whose Facebook Profiles were memorialized in error or as a cruel prank.
April Roberson, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Denver, Colorado couldn’t log in to her account May, 2019. She was barraged with calls and texts from friends and family thinking she had died.
“This was traumatizing”,” Roberson explained. “My disabled mother who lives two thousand miles away thought I died after she saw my Facebook account memorialized.” To make matters worse, it took a week to get her account back after she filed an appeal.
Nicholas Belanger, a 34-year-old Carpenter from Ottawa, Canada recently fell victim to the memorialization prank when a sneaky prankster created a fake obituary on forevermissed.com and submitted it to Facebook as proof of his death.
Belanger explained that he was a member of a Facebook Comedy Club, and trolls decided memorialize his account as a joke.
Needless to say, Belanger wasn’t amused. “It took me 72 hrs to get my account back. Facebook required me to submit a photo of myself holding up my ID to prove I was alive. Pranking someone is dead is not a joke,“ Belanger laments.
Tiff Cavazos, a 27-year-old Verizon Customer Service Representative from Orlando had her account memorialized for three days in July, 2019.
She claims she was engaged in a political debate involving President Trump while on the CNN Page, when she suddenly got a “Please login to continue” notice from her Facebook account.
“I was locked out of my own account and declared dead. It was a real headache trying to get my account back! All my friends and family thought I was dead, and I wasted lot of time calling to reassure them I was fine,” Cavazos explained.
VentureBeat reported in April 2019 that Facebook launched improved controls for memorialized accounts. This includes new measures that only friends and family members can have an account memorialized by submitting a document – such as an obituary or death certificate – to Facebook with the person’s date of passing.
Jack Norton, 43, owner of Jackass Armory in Morgantown, Pennsylvania would challenge the effectiveness of Facebook’s improved controls. His Facebook account was memorialized In June, 2019. Norton insists online trolls or cyberstalkers were the culprits.
“It wasn’t any of my friends or family that told Facebook I was dead. I asked Facebook who requested memorialization of my account and they didn’t tell me. I couldn’t log into my account which was linked to my Facebook business page.”
Norton was understandably frustrated that his livelihood was impacted as a result. “Potential customers were sending me messages on my business page and I couldn’t respond because I was locked out of my own account,” Norton explains.
“My business lost thousands of dollars because of this stunt. I’m still pissed. I went back and forth with Facebook for over a month trying to get my profile un-memorialized, I kept telling them I am alive, I am not dead.” Norton was unable to reach a live person at Facebook.
He was only able to email a Facebook representative named Riley who responded with robotic messages, extending excuse after excuse but not giving Norton access to his my account. It took a month before his account was finally restored. “I don’t trust Facebook no more,” says Norton.
Facebook provided a statement to yc.news when reached for comment, reading:
“We have designed the memorialization process to be effective for grieving families and friends, while still providing precautions to protect against either erroneous or malicious efforts to memorialize the account of someone who is not deceased.”
Facebook representatives went on to say, “We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized.”
With Facebook censorship, privacy breeches and data mining concerns escalating, this seems to be yet another nail in the coffin. Pun intended.