Facebook 'Dead' Prank: The Cruelest Trick on the Internet?

Facebook unveils new privacy controls
Facebook unveils new privacy controls Reuters

In what may be one of the cruelest online pranks ever, a new trend is emerging on Facebook: the "dead" prank. A loophole in Facebook's new "memorialization request" form has made it as easy a few clicks to convince Facebook that anyone, regardless of the truth, is dead, and the prank doesn't even require proof. One a user has reported someone is dead that person is locked out of their accounts, which are formally transformed into "Memorial" pages.

One of the growing trend's first victims, Ryan Foster, told NBC News he had been away on vacation with his wife when the trick occurred, and didn't discover he was "dead" until his return home.

"Everything seemed OK, but I didn't try to post anything until Thursday," Foster told NBC News.

When Foster tried to log into his account he received a special message saying, "This account is in a special memorial state. If you have any further questions or concerns, please visit the Help Center for further information."

At that point it was up to Foster to prove his very real continued existence as a living being. Sadly for Foster, Facebook didn't respond to his plea to prove he wasn't dead quickly, so he took to Twitter trying get the company's attention.

"So far 2 1/2 days, three or four reports, nothing even resembling a human response," he tweeted.

The call for help still didn't rile Facebook, but it did get the attention of BuzzFeed, which decided to have some fun of its own with the prank while investigating further. The site hatched a plan for one its reporters, Katie Notopoulo to "kill" her colleague John Herman. According to BuzzFeed, Herman was forced to fill out a special form but was able to reactivate his account "about an hour" later.

"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," Facebook told Herman in an email.

Foster wasn't as lucky. His account was finally reactivated after several days of waiting after receiving the same email as Herman.

"It's weird how Facebook is so good about knowing things about you, but you find this one little hole where they pretend they don't know you at all," Foster said, the Christian Post reported.

A Facebook spokesperson emailed NBC to say the site's memorialization process is designed to protect the privacy of the deceased and their family.

"We have designed the memorialization process to be effective for grieving families and friends, while still providing precautions to protect against either erroneous or malicious efforts to memorialize the account of someone who is not deceased," Facebook said in the statement. "We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized."

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