Facebook has been under fire this week for its role in disseminating fake news. And on Friday, it upset many users by virtually killing them and their friends.
An unknown number of users were alarmed on Friday afternoon to find that the social media network had memorialized their accounts. Facebook’s FB, -1.47% memorialization feature allows users to preserve a page of someone who has died. Depending on privacy settings, it can also allow friends and family to post on the deceased person’s behalf, respond to friend requests, and update the account’s cover photo.
Usually to accomplish this, users must fill out a form on behalf of the dead user, the date of their death, and a link to an obituary proving it. But on Friday — through some unidentified bug — many accounts were memorialized automatically. Not even Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg could escape the digital plague. After an extremely contentious election, some joked we had been in hell all along.
Some aspects of this week have felt like a really bad dream but actually it turns out I am dead! pic.twitter.com/5UpXkgLIIo
— Sally French (@SAFmedia) November 11, 2016
Facebook Thursday: Fake news is not a problem
Facebook Friday: Mark Zuckerberg is dead. Your friends are dead. We are all dead.
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) November 11, 2016
Facebook what is happening i am not dead. pic.twitter.com/irVc3UvJ8Y
— Kate Nocera (@KateNocera) November 11, 2016
Other users weren’t as amused, and were genuinely concerned about friends and family members. “I just panicked and thought there was something happening in NYC,” one woman said. “Oh great, just when emotions are running really high a Facebook glitch is tricking us into thinking our friends and family are dead,” another user tweeted. Only memorialized users could reportedly see the other erroneously memorialized pages in Friday’s digital heaven (or hell).
The glitch comes as Facebook has fielded criticism for its role in the 2016 election. Some have accused the social media giant of influencing political views by filtering out differing opinions and allowing false news stories to be spread to many users. Zuckerberg responded on Thursday, describing the theory as a “pretty crazy idea”
The strange effect remained for less than an hour — as of 4:20 p.m. ET Facebook users appear to be alive again. Or are we?
“For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was mistakenly posted to other accounts. This was a terrible error that we have now fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it,” said a Facebook spokesman.