Twitter has yet to implement saved accounts
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When Twitter threatened to automatically close inactive accounts, it sparked an angry response from users who feared that their dead friends and family’s accounts would disappear forever. Almost a year to the day since Twitter stepped down and promised to work on a way to save accounts, a decision has yet to be made on how to deal with its millions of dead account holders.
Last November, Twitter announced that it implemented a new initiative to automatically close accounts if users haven’t signed in for six months, freeing up millions of usernames.
One thing the company didn’t take into account, however, was the feelings of friends and family members of dead account holders who take it easy to go through the schedules and read tweets from deceased users.
Drew Olanoff, a former TechCrunch writer, wrote at the time of Twitter’s announcement that he feared the company’s new policy would delete his dead father’s account and prevent him from going back and reading his tweets. “I still read his tweets and share them with you from time to time,” wrote Olanoff, whose father had died four years ago. “It’s my strange or not strange way of remembering him. Keeping one’s mind alive. His tweets are timestamped moments that he shared with the world. “
Twitter hastily resigned, announcing within days that “we heard you about the impact this would have on the deceased’s account” and that “it was a failure on our part”.
“We won’t be removing inactive accounts until we have a new way to save accounts,” added Twitter.
A year later, however, Twitter still has to implement such a system. Twitter declined to comment, just referring us to the statements it made a year ago. The reports of the dead go unaffected – and that can create problems of its own.
Desecrate the dead
Reeva Steenkamp’s account will remain active and open to abuse
The problem with leaving the dead’s accounts to stay active is that they can become a magnet for abuse, especially if the deceased is a high profile person.
A recent documentary released by the BBC, The Trials of Oscar Pistorius, highlighted how the victim – Pistorius’ friend Reeva Steenkamp – had tweeted in the hours before her death. What was not highlighted were some of the sick responses to her tweets made after her murder and still visible on her account today.
British television presenter Caroline Flack’s report also targeted abusive tweets after she committed suicide after previously being charged with assaulting her boyfriend.
Leaving the dead accounts open for the trolls to attack can be just as problematic as automatic removal.
Family members can use Twitter to request that dead user accounts be removed from the site. “In the event of the death of a Twitter user, we may work with someone authorized to act on behalf of the estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to deactivate an account,” the company policy states.
This is by no means an instant process as Twitter requires “information about the deceased, a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate” before accounts are disabled.
Even then, it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Either have the account completely removed and deny anyone the opportunity to look back on past tweets, or leave it at the mercy of the trolls.
This is where reminder reports come into play. Facebook allows account holders to appoint someone to look after their account in the event of death. A reminder account is marked with the word “Remind” to make sure people know that the account owner has passed away. In addition, friends and family members can post reminders of the deceased account owner on their timeline, and the old contact can remove them and report anything that is inappropriate.
After a year of trying, Twitter still doesn’t offer anything like this.
Right to be forgotten?
Of course, there will also be people who feel uncomfortable that their social media profile is out of date and who prefer to have their account deleted in the event of death.
Again, this is an option on Facebook. The social network’s reminder settings allow users to request that their account be deleted after their death, which will permanently remove all posts, photos, and comments. Facebook initiates the request when the appointed legacy contact informs them of the death of the account holder.
Twitter does not offer such a function. They cannot state that in the event of your death you would like to remove your account or leave it open. It is at the discretion of your friends and family.
There is no doubt that this is a highly sensitive area that needs to be handled with caution, but a year after this issue came to the fore, Twitter is still struggling to deal with its dead.