Facebook may have a new problem: the dead prank, which lets users report others as dead without any proof. Those reported dead are then locked out of their accounts, which are turned into "Memorial" pages.
"Everything seemed OK, but I didn't try to post anything until Thursday," Rusty Foster told NBC News. When he did try to log in to his account, he received a special message that said: "This account is in a special memorial state. If you have any further questions or concerns, please visit the Help Center for further information."
Yet Foster was very much alive and confused as to what exactly happened. He and his wife had been on vacation when the "prank" occurred, and upon his return, Foster had to prove his existence. Unfortunately, Facebook was not quick to respond to Foster's request, so he turned to Twitter to get the company's attention.
"So far 2 1/2 days, three or four reports, nothing even resembling a human response," he tweeted. That got the attention of another website, BuzzFeed, which took it upon itself to investigate and have a little fun.
BuzzFeed used its reporter Katie Notopoulo to "kill" her colleague John Herman. According to the website, which lists two simple steps to locking someone off the website for some time, Herman had to fill out a special form and was able to have his account reactivated "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's account was finally reactivated after several days; he received the same email that Herman did. In the meantime, Foster set up another account, which then suggested he "friend people who were linked to his 'dead account,'" NBC reported.
"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.
A spokesperson for Facebook emailed NBC to say that the memorialization process is "effective for grieving families and friends" but that they "also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized."