For one man, a social networking prank highlighted an error on Facebook when he was declared “dead” through the site’s memorialization feature.
Rusty Foster, 36, of Maine, said on Thursday that Facebook declared him “dead,” locked him out of his account and turned his personal page into a memorial page, ABC News reported.
"Facebook thinks I'm dead,” Foster tweeted. “Did you know that you can report any of your Facebook friends dead & Facebook will lock them out of their account with no evidence needed?"
It turns out Foster was the victim of an error on Facebook’s "Memorialization Request" feature, which allows someone to declare a user dead by filling out a form and providing a link to an obituary of a person with the same name.
Foster, who is very much alive and well, told ABC that someone used the obituary for a man whose name was also Rusty Foster, except that man was born in 1924 and died in 2011.
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According to Foster, he never received a notification that his account was locked and after filling out a form to report the error, received a message that read, “We are very sorry to hear about your loss.” After a Facebook account is “memorialized,” the user is removed from sidebars, timelines, friends' suggestions and search results. The account is locked to prevent further activity and hacking.
Foster told ABC that his Facebook account remained locked for another full day while his friends had fun with the “Facebook dead” prank online.
"The only thing that happened was some of my friends posted little mock-eulogies for me, because word got around that I was locked out, due to a temporary case of death," Foster told ABC.
His friends weren’t the only ones having fun with the new feature. Editors at Buzzfeed, ABC reported, had a blast with the “Facebook dead” prank, killing off each other after being alerted of the hoax.
According to the social networking site, the feature, which has been around since 2009, is to prevent people from seeing those who died in their newsfeeds and to prevent hacking into accounts of the dead.
"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," a Facebook statement to ABC read. "We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized."
Rusty Foster, who was frustrated after being locked out his account, said there needs to be better options for the memorialization feature, to prevent pranks like the one he endured.
"There ought to be an email sent to the account's email address informing it that the account has been reported dead and providing a link or something to dispute the report before any action is taken," Foster said.