"We believe we have put in effective policies that address
the accounts that are left behind by the deceased," said Fred Wolens, a Facebook spokesman. "When we receive a report that a person on Facebook is deceased, we put the account in a special memorialized state. Certain more sensitive information is removed, and privacy is restricted to friends only. The profile and Wall are left up so that friends and loved ones can make posts in remembrance. If we're contacted by a close family member with a request to remove the profile entirely, we will honor that request."
Memorials can only be found by people who were already friends with the dead person (by default, Facebook accounts show up in Google) and the "tag a friend" and "people you may know" features are disabled. But the memorialization option is unknown to even the most social media-savvy and hard to find on the site. It's unclear how much the feature is being used. Wolens said there are no figures on how many formally memorialized pages exist.
"Facebook doesn't do a good job of thinking about death," says Brubaker, the scholar who studies death on social media. "It doesn't have that concept. There's no checkbox that says 'I am dead,' and when would you click it anyway? What does it mean for all these profiles to be lingering on of people who are dead?"