When Facebook killed Zuckerberg

This algorithm is either very evil, or very silly, or very complacent with the marketing guys: how it dares to take down the boss himself!

By JULIO MIRAVALLS (@JulioMiravalls)

November 15, 2016
In the fierce and ruthless struggle for every bit of public attention being fighted on the internet, Facebook has a weapon to retain its users even in the afterlife: “memorialize” your account. That is to say, to turn the page of the one that dies in a kind of digital tombstone, with its epitaph and the flowers that the friends want to send to him.
The Facebook help center offers plenty of documentation and tips on how to do it. Including an answer for the poor yonki of the social networks who asks what will be of his personal page when he is gone (and the shadows would wrap his relatives… with the voice of María Dolores Pradera).

But it is probable that this dark function has not reached enough notoriety and dissemination among the clientele. Until last Friday.

On Friday night Facebook declared “dead” about two million of its users, “memorializing” their pages. And for the sake of it, among the dead was his number one, that is to say Mark Zuckerberg, whose page contained this grieving funereal lament: “We hope people who love Mark will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life”.

Zuckerberg, of course, was not dead. But many of those who follow him on Facebook, and in particular some journalists, received one of those usual [annoying] alerts that immediately skyrocket, with which Facebook tries to draw attention every time there is a change in the page of someone known. And some specialised journalist, surprised by the scoop on Zuck, rushed to tweet the bad news…
Formally, Facebook ensures it has a tight control system to verify the deaths that are communicated before changes can be made to a page. Obviously, it is usually done by a relative or friend of the deceased (who goes carrying the password with him), who is asked for some proof of death, such as a death certificate or an obituary in the press.

The only explanation of the company on the subject was an obscure statement on the same Friday: “For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was mistakenly posted to other accounts [just about a couple of millions…]. 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.”

The affair of the two million dead, whose friends had opportunity to take a good fright or annoyance (and not only talk about the feelings of friends… let’s leave it there), allows to suppose that in fact Facebook launched some of its magical algorithms, a new one, to see if in addition to find out everything about our lives can also know all about our deaths.

In any case, there does not seem to be very human control over the matter. Or is there?

The algorithm in question, an issue that has not been clarified by Facebook, is either very evil, or very silly, or very complacent with the marketing guys: how it dares to take down the boss himself!

It would have been a bad viral advertising that would suddenly flood the network the new that Facebook is killing millions of innocent people. But if the first one to fall is the Facebook’s first sword [sorry: this is just a spanish turn, it means the main ‘matador’ in the ‘corrida’ or bull fighting], what better demonstration that the macabre maneuver has been a failure without bad intention? Who is going to protest to Zuck, if he himself is also dead…?

In the absence of new details that explain it, the exaggerated news about the death of Mark Zuckerberg has been the most efficient way to draw attention to that functionality that will allow Facebook to keep as active user every living thing, even after it ceases to be.

First Published in Spanish: apuntelego.es ‘Cuando Facebook mató a Zuckerberg’ (14/11/2016)

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