Facebook Apologises for Stirring Up Painful Memories With its ‘Year in Review’ Feature
Ashley Allen / 2 years ago
Any Facebook user scrolling through their news feed over the last week have likely seen a slew of posts entitled “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it”, featuring a compilation of photo and text highlights from the user’s past year on Facebook. Unfortunately, the algorithm that picked the data wasn’t able to discriminate between good and bad memories, meaning some people were in for a rough time.
Facebook: "Remember those memories that now make you sad? Look at your Year In Review!".
— William Wilkinson (@willw) December 26, 2014
The algorithm chooses images that had the most interaction. Good in theory, but in practice a photo of, say, a deceased canine friend would certainly garner much sympathy and sorrow. The user is able to customise their Year in Review before posting, but that still requires them to view any potentially mournful images.
Facebook "year in review" thing is kind of awful as it chose 2 pictures of my dogs that died this year & uses poor graphic design elements.
— Travis Louie (@travislouie) December 27, 2014
Eric Meyer, a web design consultant and writer, posted on his blog about his experience with Year in Review after losing his young daughter this year:
And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.
But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.
After reading the blog post, Facebook’s Product Manager Jonathan Gheller apologised directly to Meyer. He later said, “[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy […] We can do better — I’m very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post.”