Although social media began making headway in the late 1990s with blogging websites, it really exploded in the mid-2000’s with the birth of Facebook and Twitter. And in the near-15 years since then, millions of Facebook and Twitter users have died.
Currently, around 8,000 Facebook users pass away daily. Often their pages become memorials to their existence and are left as a digital tribute to the deceased.
In order to deactivate an account on Facebook without knowing the login and password, you must possess several documents and make a special request. You must have both the birth and death certificates of the deceased as well as proof that you lawfully represent the deceased or their estate. This special request form allows you to either memorialize the account, remove it, or ask for a special request or question.
Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012, memorializes accounts in a similar way to Facebook, but they can’t be changed and no one can log into the account of the deceased. Memorializes accounts won’t show up in the public search to strangers, but the posts of the deceased user will remain visible and can still be seen by the people they were shared with. Friends or family of the deceased user can get in touch with Instagram by email to let them know that the user has passed away, but will ask for proof of death so no accounts are wrongfully closed.
The situation with Twitter is fairly similar. According to their help forums, only a verified family member the deceased or a person who is authorized to act on behalf of the estate can move to deactivate the account of the deceased. They will need “information about the deceased, a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate” to ensure accounts aren’t deactivated wrongfully.
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