After Elon Musk announced the deletion of inactive Twitter accounts, the question of how to memorialize a deceased person’s account was raised.
Twitter has announced it will be “deleting” inactive accounts from the platform, prompting a spate of requests for a memorial feature to save the accounts and tweets of deceased users.
“We’re deleting accounts that haven’t had any activity at all for several years, so you’re likely to see a drop in followers,” tweeted Elon Musk, the platform’s owner, on Monday.
His tweet drew a flood of responses from people who don’t want to lose access to deceased users’ tweets.
“Please do not delete accounts of deceased people…it’s an important reminder for many of us who have lost active family members,” one user tweeted.
Since the announcement in early May, some accounts now appear to have been deleted from the site. Emily Reed lost her younger sister Jessica more than 10 years ago and frequently revisited her Twitter page to “keep her memories alive”.
It was a place for her to process her grief and reconnect with her sister, but since Musk’s announcement, her sister’s page has only displayed an “Account Suspended” message, suggesting that this may be against the Twitter -Rules violated.
“Having these digital footprints … is super important to me,” Reed, 43, told The Associated Press. She tweeted Musk, calling his move a “farce of a policy,” adding, “Your nonsense has taken a monument out of my sister’s mark on this earth.”
Others reported similar pain when they learned that a loved one’s record was gone.
“Some may scoff at any reference between Twitter and ancient libraries, but while the Alexandria Library fire was a tragedy, scrolls and books thrown in the trash simply because no one wanted to keep them are far worse. Save it all!” said high-profile computer programmer and one of Musk’s supporters, John Carmack.
This is an issue that Twitter addressed back in 2019 under the previous owner. At the time, it was responding to user feedback on the impact a purge would have on deceased people’s accounts.
“This was an error on our part,” Twitter support tweeted, promising not to delete the accounts until a resolution is found.
New owner Musk seemed to make the same mistake, clarifying the next day that inactive accounts would be “archived,” without detailing how that would work.
Musk’s leadership of Twitter has been tumultuous since he bought the company for $44 billion late last year.
He tried to step down from the business but continued to buy despite legal action. In March, he announced that he now values the company at $20 billion, less than half of what he bought it for.
Google recently announced it would also be deleting inactive accounts, which has raised similar concerns among people who can’t access their loved ones’ accounts.
In a May 16 blog post, the company said accounts that have been inactive for two years or more may be deleted along with all content — including content in Gmail, Google Drive, Calendars, and Google Photos.
Ruth Kricheli, vice president of product management at Google, explained that inactive accounts with old or reused passwords are more likely to be at risk and are significantly less likely to have two-step verification.
“That said, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to delivering unwanted or even malicious content like spam,” she wrote.
Facebook style commemoration
The question of what to do with the accounts of deceased users has already been raised by Meta’s social platforms Facebook and Instagram.
On Facebook, a family member can request that their deceased relative’s account be deleted or memorialized on their behalf. You must provide proof of the person’s death with an obituary or memorial card, as well as evidence of their relationship to the account holder.
According to Facebook, memorial accounts are “a place for friends and family to collect and share memories after someone’s death.” Depending on privacy settings, these features include:
Friends can share memories on their timeline; Photos and posts shared by the person before their death remain visible; their account can be removed if there is a sole administrator and a valid request is made.
Meta’s other major social media platform, Instagram, also has policies in place for deleting or remembering an account following the death of a loved one.
Reports of dead people can be reported to Instagram as a reminder. This requires proof of death, such as an obituary or a news article. Close family members can request that the account be removed from Instagram.
You can even be remembered on LinkedIn. A person authorized to act on behalf of the deceased must again provide documentation to prove their connection and to prove that the death occurred.
They can then request the account be removed or leave it permanently as a keepsake for their professional contacts.
Twitter allows people who are authorized to act on behalf of the deceased to request that their account be deleted. You must be a verified family member and provide information such as a valid ID and a copy of the death certificate.
Euronews Next contacted Twitter to ask about the concerns raised around the announced deletion of inactive accounts. Twitter responded with a poo emoji.