In response to the rising death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, Instagram is rushing to update a feature that allows family members to ask that a deceased person’s account be “memorialized,” locking the account and adding a “remembering” label above their username.
The test was spotted by researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who posted a screenshot of how it would work on her Twitter account:
Instagram is working on account memorialization
disclaimer: I’m not actually dead, only in the inside pic.twitter.com/DVIDLLwTAk
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 20, 2020
When you land on a memorialized account, you’ll also be greeted by this notification, which links to the Instagram Help Center:
Instagram continues working on account memorialization
adds this sheet of “Remembering <user>”
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 21, 2020
The issue of how to handle the accounts of people who have passed away is not new for social networks, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced Instagram to rush this particular feature. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, an Instagram spokesperson admitted that “this is one [update] — among others — that we’ve accelerated in light of COVID-19 to help support our community during a difficult time.”
The new features would expand the system that is already in place. Previously, memorialized accounts were simply frozen: nobody could log into or alter the account, and the posts would no longer show up in the Explore tab. Instagram’s update would add the “remembering” tag above the memorialized person’s username when you visit their profile, as well as the explanation embedded above.