Something weird started going down on Friday afternoon as people checked their Facebook profiles (hopefully not as a source of news), and were greeted by a banner at the top of their profiles announcing that they had died.
“Remembering [not-dead person’s name here],” the memorial statement reads. “We hope people who love [not-dead person] will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate [their] life.”
Facebook didn’t immediately make a statement about why exactly it told people they were dead. The number of affected users is uncertain, but an informal poll of the Inverse office showed nearly half the staff to be newly dead, which, though in an admittedly not very scientific sampling, would seem to indicate that the problem is somewhat widespread. Many celebrities, including internet superstar Ken Bone, are allegedly dead (on Facebook).
Within approximately half an hour, the profiles appeared to be fixed. It was unclear whether the changes were due to a hack, an error resulting from a bug, or perhaps disgruntled a employee dissatisfied with their company’s role in the election who chose an extremely inappropriate method of expressing it.
After another hour or so, a Facebook spokesperson told Politico journalist Hadas Gold that the banners were a result of a bug.
Shortly after, a Facebook representative replied to Inverse with the following:
“For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was mistakenly posted to other accounts. This was a terrible error that we have now fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it.” — A Facebook Spokesperson
In a way, it was probably a good thing that the memorial banner appeared on as many profiles as it did; it only took people a few minutes to realize something was wrong, as opposed to the panic that may have ensued among a smaller group of users who might otherwise have legitimately believed Facebook friends they knew but hadn’t recently spoken to had actually died.
Facebook has run into problems in the past when it comes to how to handle the profiles of deceased users, often bombarding surviving friends and family with cheery reminders about the departed.
It was only recently that it settled on the “memorial” feature, keeping pages open for people to post messages and open letters.
Tonya Riley contributed to this report.