Instagram is speeding up plans for a new account memorialization feature, adding a “Remembering” banner under a username to signal that a person has died. "We’ve been working on these updates for some time, though this is one — among others — that we’ve accelerated in light of COVID-19 to help support our community during a difficult time," Liza Crenshaw, a spokesperson for Instagram told BuzzFeed News.
This new feature was first noticed by researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who has uncovered other new features in testing on social networks, like the mute button on Instagram. Details for the new feature, including when it will launch, are not yet set.
Currently, family members can ask that a dead person's Instagram account be memorialized through a form on the Instagram site. This will preserve the account so it doesn’t get deleted or altered and will prevent people from logging into it, even with the password. A memorialized account won’t show up on the Explore page, but friends can still send it DMs (though no one can read them).
This new feature will also add a “Remembering” banner to such accounts. This signals to other users that the account has been memorialized and the person has died.
How to best manage the accounts of people who have died is not a new problem for social networks.
Facebook has had an account memorialization function for years and in 2015 started allowing you to name someone as your account heir — someone you trust to manage your profile for you if you die. The company has since refined the feature, which in its early days allowed you to prank your friends by memorializing their accounts. Facebook now requires more documentation to determine that person is actually dead.
Last November, Twitter announced plans to delete the accounts of inactive users in Europe as a means of freeing up usernames. But concerns that the move might also purge the accounts of dead people, which might be devastating for their loved ones cause the company to rethink the idea. After a backlash, Twitter said it would not move forward with the plan until it had developed a tool to memorialize the Twitter accounts of those who have died. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Twitter told BuzzFeed News the company has no updates on those plans.