A new algorithm is being rolled out by Facebook to help tackle a sensitive concern for users: receiving notifications from the profiles of dead friends and relatives. A report from The Guardian says that the social media giant is altering its AI system and will be treating such accounts differently by preventing the site from automatically suggesting people invite people to events who have already passed away.
Currently, accounts are kept on Facebook in memory of those who have died. These “memorialized” accounts display such things as photos, posts and other treasured memories for other users to see. However, as the site’s algorithm treats these the same way as any other profile, the site can suggest they be invited to parties or it can recommend users wish them a happy birthday, which can be upsetting to others.
Facebook has said that such notifications should be a thing of the past.
“Once an account is memorialized, we use AI to help keep the profile from showing up in places that might cause distress.”
Chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said in a blog post on Tuesday that they are “working to get better and faster at this.”
According to Wired, users who have been assigned as a “legacy contact” – an option which gives people permission to be in control of a user’s profile if they pass away – will have even more control than before. One such feature is the ability to manage “tributes” where loved ones can be remembered and users can reminisce about them.
Content can also be moderated by legacy contacts, according to the BBC. Sandberg confirmed that these specially assigned users will be able to moderate “by changing tagging settings, removing tags and editing who can post and see posts.”
Some of these changes are a response to users abusing the system by falsely claiming that someone has died, thus locking that user out of their Facebook account.
In 2014, the company had to issue an apology after a “Year in Review” – a feature which shows a user’s highlighted moments of that year – showed several pictures and clips of friends and relatives who had already died.
Web designer, Eric Meyer, wrote in a blog post titled “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty” that Facebook had shown him a picture of his daughter who died in 2014, saying that “it was still unkind to remind me so forcefully.”
However, there may be some complications that come with these algorithmic updates, such as if the legacy contact also dies. Sandberg has said that the company will look into a solution for this.