Rusty Foster of Peaks Island, Maine was unpleasantly surprised last week when he returned from a vacation in Cancun to find out he could no longer access his Facebook account.
His page hadn't been hacked, he had simply been declared dead by a prankster friend. It appears that it is quite simple to block your friends out of their accounts, by simply “memorializing” their page.
As we previously noted, the "memorial" option on Facebook is a clever tool made available to friends and family of a deceased Facebook user. They simply have to provide proof of their loved one's untimely demise, to access the service.
Said proof can be submitted in the form of an online obituary, which could have been written to honor a namesake. Nobody double-checks for characteristics such as age or location, as long as a link is provided.
“Everything seemed OK, but I didn’t try to post anything until Thursday,” Foster tells NBC News about his experience.
He realized he had been “memorialized” when a “pink box” appeared on the screen as he tried to log in.
“This account is in a special memorial state. If you have any questions or concerns, please visit the Help Center for further information,” it read.
He tried contacting the website, however it was a long wait, and turned to the Buzz Feed news outlet, asking editors to publish a piece on the subject.
When NBC asked Facebook what to make of this error, they responded by clarifying that an appeals procedure is made available for situations such as this one.
“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.
“We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized,” they wrote back.
It appears the function was introduced in 2009, so that online friends of the deceased would no longer get invites to “reconnect” with him or her after their passing.