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Facebook launches new tool to help users memorialize loved ones

Posted at 10:11 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 23:15:09-04

(NBC News) – Facebook on Tuesday announced changes to how it handles the profiles of users who have died, including using artificial intelligence to help keep the profiles of deceased people from showing up in places that might cause distress.

Facebook is also creating a separate section on profiles of the deceased that will be dedicated to tributes. By clicking on different tabs, users will be able to switch between the deceased person’s preserved, original timeline and a second feed where others have left memories, photos or other posts in remembrance.

The automated changes will prevent recommendations that a person who has passed away be invited to events or sending reminders that it is the person’s birthday.

The changes are based on the feedback the company has received from users, discussions with experts in grieving, and people from various religious and cultural backgrounds, as well as the personal experience of Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly in 2015. Though she’s the No. 2 executive at Facebook, Sandberg didn’t have the power to keep her late husband’s name from appearing on the platform in unexpected places. The network’s systems weren’t designed, for example, to take death into account when making friend suggestions.

“We weren’t able to really distinguish sometimes when someone was alive years ago,” Sandberg told NBC News in a phone interview.

“And so it would show up as if he were still alive, or suggest a friend, and there were things that were happening that I think were really painful,” she said.

Sandberg said the updates resonated with her more than typical product updates at Facebook.

“This is very, very close to my heart and really matters,” she said.