We are seeing the emergence of a new type of death ritual in our society: virtual funerals. The increasing amount of digital content left behind by the deceased has necessitated a change in how we handle death and its aftermath. It can seem daunting to have to manage someone’s social media accounts after they’ve gone, but this phenomenon is just another layer we need to incorporate into how we commemorate those who have passed away.
Recent research conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute revealed that by the end of this century, the number of deceased Facebook user accounts will exceed the number of living user accounts. This raises a number of questions on data privacy and post-mortem account management. Who will have access to deceased users’ accounts? How can their right to privacy be maintained? These are essential topics to consider in our digital age.
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Why Social Media Accounts Need to be Dealt with After Death
Dealing with the social media accounts of a deceased loved one quickly and respectfully is essential. You may have been provided explicit instructions, or you may have to make decisions based on ambiguous factors. There are many reasons that make processing the deceased individual’s digital presence a priority; including preventing identity theft, dealing with malicious accounts, and ensuring that the departed person’s memory is respected by those who knew them.
Security: With so many potential cyber threats out there, it is important to ensure the online safety of our deceased loved ones. Social media accounts can provide valuable personal information to thieves and malicious users; therefore, appropriate steps should be taken to protect those accounts from unwanted access or misuse. We recommend taking whatever steps necessary to preserve the security of the digital records associated with your loved one’s legacy.
Notifying Family and Friends: Social media accounts are the primary means of staying connected to distant family and friends. If you don’t have their contact information, they’re one of the best channels for communicating a person’s passing. Please consider utilizing these accounts to make those important notifications.
In some cases, families and friends will choose to keep a loved one’s account active after their death as a way to memorialize that person. This can provide comfort through the memories contained within the posts and pictures, but also raises complex questions concerning who needs to know and how long should these accounts remain. It’s an incredibly difficult decision, but many find lasting solace in preserving an account of the deceased as a testament to their life.
What Happens to Social Media Accounts After Death
Facebook provides users with the ability to contact the team if a family member has passed away. After verifying and validating all of the necessary information, Facebook can then delete or memorialize the account accordingly. Memorializing an account leaves it open to visitation; friends of the deceased may post comments and share memories on their timeline. But birthday notifications won’t be sent out, and a “Remembering” caption will appear next to their name.
Memorializing an Instagram account is a straightforward process, particularly since Instagram is now owned by Facebook. The memorialization request must be made by an immediate family member and then verified with proof. This can take the form of an obituary or news article. To delete the account, the immediate family must provide further proof such as the birth or death certificate of the deceased, as well as a proof of authority to act as a lawful representative.
For those concerned about what will happen to a deceased person’s YouTube and Google accounts, the policy is clear. In most cases, YouTube will not provide the login information for these accounts. The team will, however, cooperate with immediate family members of the deceased to remove the account and potentially provide access to any content shared on it.
If you’d like more information or need to submit a request to delete a deceased person’s YouTube account, find out more here.
Unfortunately, Snapchat does not offer memorialization options for deceased users. As such, the only way to gain access to the account is by submitting a request to delete it with proof of death certificate. The Snapchat team will then review the request and move forward from there. Please contact their Support team for more information on this policy.
Twitter currently only enables the deletion of a deceased user’s accounts by immediate family members. However, the social media giant has stated that it plans to introduce memorialization features in late 2021. Nonetheless, as of November 2021, these features have not been released yet.
As of November 2021, it remains unclear what TikTok policy would be for memorializing or removing the account of a deceased user. As such, no definitive resolution has been put in place at this time.