MOSCOW, December 28 (Sputnik) — Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has apologized to a man for painful memories brought back by its "Year in Review" feature, the Washington Post reports.
The algorithm creates a slideshow of the user’s most popular photos and posts of the year, in chronological order. The posts are selected automatically depending on the number of "likes" and comments without considering their emotional tone. The users can see digital prompts advertising the feature in their newsfeeds or looking through similar reviews from their own friends. The default tagline for the post is, "It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it."
Eric Meyer, a web design consultant and writer, is one of those people. Earlier this year, his daughter died from brain cancer on her sixth birthday. For that reason he had avoided looking at previews of his own timeline summary.
However, Facebook put a personalized digital prompt advertising the "Year in Review" in Meyer’s newsfeed. A picture of his daughter surrounded by cartoon characters was on the post’s cover.
Meyer believes Facebook had no intention to hurt him, and considers it a terrible design flaw.
"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," he wrote.
Jonatan Gheller, the product manager for the "Year in Review" feature said he has reached out to Meyer and apologized for the pain the app caused him.
"[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy," he told the Washington Post.
The team behind the app is reviewing ways to improve the feature for next time and is taking Meyer’s concerns into account, according to the Post.
"It's valuable feedback," Gheller said. "We can do better — I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post."
However, the company has not publicly apologized for the flaw so far.