Facebook directly apologized Friday to one user after their “Year In Review” feature, which operates on an algorithm, reminded him of the loss of loved one, the Washington Post reported.
Eric Meyer, a web design consultant and writer, lost his six-year-old daughter to brain cancer this year. After seeing his late daughter’s photo in a preview of his “Year In Review,” he finally clicked the feature only to find her picture surrounded by dancing figurines.
Jonathan Gheller, product manager for Facebook's “Year in Review” app told the Post that he had contacted Meyer to personally apologize for the pain the feature caused him.
“[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy,” he said.
Upon finding the picture, Meyer wrote in a blog post he understood that Facebook did not act with the intent to remind him of his loss but blamed it on a design flaw.
“I didn’t go looking for grief this afternoon, but it found me anyway, and I have designers and programmers to thank for it… I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault,” he wrote.
“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.”
“It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it,” is the default caption that accompanies the feature, which compiles photos posted by the user throughout the year selected based on popularity
“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,” he said in his blog post.
The web-design consultant suggested two fixes in his post.
“First, don’t pre-fill a picture until you’re sure the user actually wants to see pictures from their year. And second, instead of pushing the app at people, maybe ask them if they’d like to try a preview—just a simple yes or no.”
On whether Facebook will take Meyer’s recommendation, Gheller said it was “valuable feedback.”
“We can do better -- I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post.”SHOW MORE