← Return to search results
Back to Prindle Institute

The Dead on Facebook

By Amy Brown
13 Jan 2015

Should Facebook suggest posts about the dead on your News Feed? In her article for The AtlanticShirley Li wrote about her experience with Facebook suggesting she like a page that was a memorial to a woman who died in 2013. The woman had died in a tragic fire (in a house with a history of code violations and overcrowding), but seemingly had no connection to Shirley Li. After some intensive digging, Li found that an old Facebook friend of hers had liked the page but hidden her likes, although there was no other connection. Photos of the dead woman continued to appear on her News Feed. Facebook explained the posts were showing up because Li was in the target demographic for the ad campaign began by the administrator of the page; when Li contacted the administrator, the administrator explained that herself and the deceased’s mother posted frequently on the page to share the deceased’s story and keep her memory alive. People can offer condolences, come together to grieve, and remember her. Since Facebook has no “in memoriam” option for starting pages, the page is treated just like any other page and sent out like an ad campaign.

Facebook has also taken heat for having the dead appear on News Feeds, such as when their 2014 Year in Review videos contained pictures of friends that had died that year. Although Facebook has created memorialized profiles, which remove profiles of deceased users from being suggested friends or birthday reminders. However, the system still hasn’t been perfected. Is it ethical for Facebook to treat pages honoring the deceased as any other ad campaign and suggest the page to those who did not know the person? Should Facebook do more to prevent the deceased from appearing on Facebook? Is it appropriate to promote pages honoring the dead? Let us know in the comments.

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
Related Stories