What’s more insincere than sending someone a happy birthday wish because Facebook told you to? Sending a dead friend a happy birthday wish because Facebook told you to.
Yet, surprisingly, Facebook actually does tell its users to send a birthday wish to Facebook friends who have literally died. But that practice will soon come to an end. That’s because after years Facebook has finally realized that telling you to wish your dead family member or friend a happy birthday could cause quite a bit of distress. The company will now use AI to make sure users aren’t asked to do so.
Facebook announced the changes in a blog post written by the company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg highlighting an upcoming feature of memorialized accounts–accounts of Facebook users who have been confirmed to have died. As Sandberg explains:
In addition to creating supportive tools, we also hope to minimize experiences that might be painful. We’ve heard from people that memorializing a profile can feel like a big step that not everyone is immediately ready to take. That’s why it’s so important that those closest to the deceased person can decide when to take that step. Now we are only allowing friends and family members to request to have an account memorialized.
If an account hasn’t yet been memorialized, we use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends. We’re working to get better and faster at this. (Updated on April 9, 2019 at 9:50AM PT to clarify that we use AI this way before an account has been memorialized.)
Now if only Facebook improved its AI to stop notifying us to send birthday wishes to Facebook friends we don’t really like.