According to BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopolous, the full memorialization process involves filling out a single form that requires you to know the name, e-mail address and account name of the supposedly dead user.
“Lastly, it asks for proof that your friend is dead, but it will accept a link to an online obituary as sufficient proof,” writes Notopolous. “If your friend has a common enough name, just Google their name + “obituary” and you’ll probably find a match.”
So she put one of her fellow writers through the process to see if she could convince Facebook he had died.
She lied and claimed to be an immediate family member of the not-actually-dead decedent. There is no request to verify or confirm this information.
For the obituary, she linked to a news story about a Nebraska man with a similar name — the last names are actually one letter off from each other — who recently passed away at the age of 73. The page being memorialized belongs to a much younger man who lives in New York.
And yet, the form was accepted and the still-breathing BuzzFeed writer was now locked out of his own account.
In order to get his account back, he needed to locate a separate form stating that his account was mistakenly memorialized. This generated an auto-reply e-mail that appears to be intended for a user trying to close a late friend’s account.
“We are very sorry to hear about your loss,” reads the e-mail. “We will review your report and take the appropriate steps based on our policies…” and then goes on to describe how one goes about memorializing an account.
Though the user who tipped Notopolous to the problem says he’s been waiting days to get his account reactivated, it only took about an hour for the BuzzFeed writer to receive the following e-mail:
“It looks like your account was suspended by mistake. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.”
Without explaining why a user could memorialize a page when the info doesn’t come close to matching the obituary, a rep for the website tells Buzzfeed, “we try to take all necessary precautions when processing user requests and provide an appeals process for any possible mistake we may make.”