Facebook to change policy after father's emotional plea

Feb 7, 2014

John Berlin's video pleading to see his dead son's Look Back video has received 1.8 million views

FACEBOOK has announced that it will review the way it handles 'memorial' pages of users who have passed away, after receiving a heartfelt plea from a father who lost his son in 2012. 

John Berlin contacted the social network service to request a video of his son, Jesse, who died at the age of 21.

To coincide with its tenth anniversary, Facebook this week offered a Look Back feature to users, allowing them to watch video highlights of their time on the site. Hoping to see a video package for his son, Berlin petitioned the company with a message that swiftly gathered support from across the internet.

Berlin's appeal, addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, prompted the social network to create a bespoke video from the 21-year-old guitarist's page and public posts.

The emotional plea, in which the Missouri resident pauses several times to stop his tears, was posted to YouTube and has received over 1.8 million views.

"You ever do something crazy because you just don't know what to do anymore?" Berlin says in the video, "Well, that's what I'm doing right now... I'm asking my friends to share this video, and their friends to share it and so on and so forth and maybe somebody will see it that counts. I know it is a shot in the dark but I don't care."

Facebook's existing policy is to disable accounts of people who have died to ensure that deceased users' details are not used in advertising, and that their friends and relatives don't receive reminders on their birthday. The site has a dedicated 'Memorialisation Request' page that allows family members to alert the site when a family member has passed away. The site requires people to send evidence of a family member's death, such as a link to an obituary or news article, to prevent abuse.

A representative of Facebook said that following the incident, the social network will review the way accounts of people who have died are handled. "This experience reinforced to us that there's more Facebook can do to help people celebrate and commemorate the lives of people they have lost," a spokeswoman told the BBC. "We'll have more to share in the coming weeks and months."

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