Facebook’s attempts to adopt a more caring stance continues after it announced it would improve its efforts in dealing with those people who have passed away.

The social networking giant said it would utilise “improved AI to keep the profile of a deceased loved one from appearing in painful ways.”

The development comes as Facebook seeks to improve its public image which has been battered after a year of scandals. Earlier this week for example Facebook changed its terms and conditions, under which it would clearly highlight its business model of selling user data for use in targeted advertising.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg

Tributes section

And earlier this month Facebook had called for more regulation of internet firms.

Mark Zuckerberg had called for an international framework that would “establish a way to hold companies such as Facebook accountable by imposing sanctions when we make mistakes”.

And now Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has outlined how Facebook wants to make it “easier to honour a loved one after they pass away.”

Sandberg of course has personal experience of this after her husband Dave Goldberg unexpected passed away in 2015.

“People turn to Facebook to find community during life’s highs and lows,” wrote Sandberg. “We know the loss of a friend or family member can be devastating – and we want Facebook to be a place where people can support each other while honouring the memory of their loved ones.”

Sandberg said Facebook was updating its processes to “make this experience even more supportive for our community”.

This includes the creation of a new tributes section for memorialised accounts, whilst providing additional controls for people who manage memorialised accounts.

And Sandberg said that Facebook would utlise “improved AI to keep the profile of a deceased loved one from appearing in painful ways.”

Sandberg said that Facebook had gathered feedback from people of different religions and cultural backgrounds as well as experts and academics.

“Over 30 million people view memorialised profiles every month to post stories, commemorate milestones and remember those who have passed away,” wrote Sandberg. “The new tributes section expands on this, creating a separate tab on memorialised profiles where friends and family can share posts – all while preserving the original timeline of their loved one. This lets people see the types of posts that are most helpful to them as they grieve and remember their loved ones.”

Facebook said that in 2015 it had introduced a feature that lets people choose a legacy contact (family member or friend) to take care of their Facebook account when they pass away.

AI improvements

“Since then, we’ve heard that legacy contacts wish they could do more to manage the memorialised accounts they look after,” wrote Sandberg. “Legacy contacts can now moderate the posts shared to the new tributes section by changing tagging settings, removing tags and editing who can post and see posts.”

Sandberg said at the moment it is only allowing friends and family members to request to have an account memorialised.

“If an account hasn’t yet been memorialised, 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,” said Sandberg. “We’re working to get better and faster at this.

Facebook of course has been using AI for years, which it uses to catch prohibited content, tag people in photos and translate posts into other languages.

Quiz: Think you know all about Facebook?

Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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