What Happens to Social Media Accounts after a User’s Death?
I know someone who uses Facebook as somewhat of a digital diary. She regularly shares photos and stories that document her daily life, major life events, and milestones. Her feed is a historical record of her life.
An estimated 295 million Americans use social media, some more prolifically than others, and for family members, these accounts provide an enduring link to a loved one who has passed away.
But what will happen to your account after you’re gone? Will your family members be able to access the accounts? Will they be able to download your feed or shut down your account?
Unfortunately, there is no uniform way in which social media companies deal with accounts after death. So it’s important to understand each company’s requirements for dealing with social media accounts after a user dies
Below is a listing of some of the most popular social media platforms and how they deal with accounts when a user dies.
Facebook gives you two options. The first option you have is to delete your account (which will delete everything associated with the account, including messages, photos, and comments). Alternatively, you can appoint a “legacy contact” who will manage a memorialized account after you die. The legacy contact will be able to:
- Manage tribute posts on your profile, which includes deciding who can post and who can see posts, deleting posts, and removing tags;
- Update your profile photo and cover photo;
- Respond to new friend requests; and
- Delete your account.
If you don’t name a legacy contact, Facebook will memorialize your account when someone provides proof of your death. The content on a memorialized account will remain visible to those with whom you have shared it.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not permit you to appoint a legacy contact. Rather, the only two options after an Instagram user dies are deleting the account completely or memorializing the account.
Deleting the account requires someone to submit a request to Instagram online, along with verification that the account owner has died, such as a death certificate or other document verifying that the person submitting the request is an immediate family member or executor of the account owner’s estate. This will delete all data related to the account.
Memorializing the account requires a different submission. After an account owner has passed away, family members or friends can submit a request to memorialize the account. This will leave all your posts visible to those with whom you’ve shared the content. Once memorialized, it will no longer be possible to make any changes to the account.
Like Instagram, Pinterest does not permit an account owner to appoint a legacy contact. However, family members or authorized representatives can submit a request online to delete your account.
Twitter will work with an immediate family member or an executor to deactivate the account of a deceased user. To initiate the deactivation process, your family member or authorized representative should submit a request online.
Twitter will then email instructions for providing proof that the account owner has died and the person submitting the request is actually authorized to act on behalf of the estate.
Twitter also routinely removes deletes accounts due to prolonged inactivity.