Facebook reviews family memorials after dad's plea

John Berlin John Berlin posted his emotional plea to Facebook on YouTube

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A father's plea to watch a video based on his dead son's Facebook page has provoked the network to look again at how families can remember loved ones.

Facebook recently launched a Look Back feature that creates a video generated by popular moments on a person's profile.

John Berlin posted a YouTube clip asking to see a Look Back video for his son Jesse, who died in 2012 aged 22.

After the plea gained support, Facebook told Mr Berlin a video would be made.

Mr Berlin, who is from Missouri in the US, was unable to create the video himself as he did not have access to his son's profile.

Facebook said it would create one on his behalf using content Jesse had posted publicly.

"It worked I was just contacted by FB by phone and they're going to make a vid just for us," John Berlin wrote in a status update.

"They also said they're going to look at how they can better help families who have lost loved ones."

Following the incident, Facebook has said it is working on implementing further ways to deal with death on the network.

"This experience reinforced to us that there's more Facebook can do to help people celebrate and commemorate the lives of people they have lost," a spokeswoman told the BBC via email.

"We'll have more to share in the coming weeks and months."

'Shot in the dark'

Mr Berlin posted a video to YouTube "calling out to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook".

"You've been putting out these one-minute movies that everyone has been sharing," he said. "I think they're great."

Facebook's look back screenshot The Look Back videos show key moments from a person's time on Facebook

He went on to explain his son's death, and how he could not access his profile.

"All we want to do is see his movie. I know it's a shot in the dark but I don't care."

The clip was posted to link-sharing website Reddit where it gained a lot of support. Mr Berlin posted his son's obituary to allay concerns the clip may have been a hoax.

Local radio station Pix11 stepped in to put Mr Berlin in contact with Facebook.

Protected profiles

Facebook already offers a "memorialising" process for profiles of deceased users.

The service was introduced in 2009 after one of the social network's engineers lost a loved one and felt the existing measures were not sufficient.

Under the current set-up, family members can use the site's help centre to send links from newspapers or other sources confirming the news that someone has died.

Facebook told the BBC such processes were in place to ensure someone did not maliciously try to shut an account - and that there was an appeal process in place for the rare occasions when mistakes were made.

Memorialising means a user who has died will no longer appear alongside advertising, or in contextual messages - and friends will not be reminded of a person's birthday.

Facebook does not hand over full access to a person's account due to privacy concerns.

In the past, Facebook has come under criticism for displaying prompts to talk to people who were no longer alive.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC


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  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    While I don't think there should necessarily be an automatic right of view for next of kin, people SHOULD be able to will their usernames and passwords to things online, like Facebook accounts, iTunes purchases, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    My brother passed away in 2012. I moved to Canada in 2000 and only visited him occasionally in between. He got married and had a little girl. Later, he divorced and started using Facebook to express his struggle. I could not share his hardship in life and did not understand his hurt at the time. I lost him and missed him so deeply. Now, I still sometimes send message to his fb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    no-1s private account should be available after they die. they should be afforded the same data protection whilst dead a they were when alive. Who knows what some people would have secretly tucked away in their online world...

    If they wanted to share their lives with you, im sure they did in life. if they didnt, maybe they dont want to in death

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    For many, Facebook is an important part of there social world, it has become a contemporary journal of peoples lives, sharing their thoughts, dreams, experiences and key life events.

    "I can think of no better way for friends and families of 'loved ones lost' to celebrate and reflect on those precious memories".

    "I cannot stress enough the importance of celebrating life when dealing with death"

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I have no interest in Facebook.

    However, if memorialising provides a grieving family with comfort then one can only support the move.


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