Facebook offers apology for 'Year in Review'

Facebook has given an official apology for its annual 'Year in Review' automated recap feature. No, not for how pushy the social network gets in reminding you about it in your feed, or encouraging you to share it with others, but for how it caused some users to relive the pain of bad memories from 2014. The issue was brought to light by Eric Meyer, who wrote on his personal blog how his Year in Review automatically selected photos of his 6 year old daughter who died of brain cancer earlier this year.

The Year in Review feature creates a special photo album that automatically selects chronologically lists important photos from the user's last year of posts. However, the problem is how the feature chooses which photos to include, as the algorithm is designed to pick posts with the most engagement from others, i.e. "likes" and comments. There's no differentiation if the post was about something sad or painful that a user may not want to relive at that moment.

While the Year in Review comes with the tagline "It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it," that sentiment was the furthest from how Eric Meyer felt. As he wrote on his post, titled "Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty":

And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. 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.

Shortly after the issue began getting attention, and other complaints from users who just didn't appreciate the feature, Facebook's Jonathan Gheller, the product manager for Year in Review, wrote to Meyer and personally apologized for bringing him grief during the holiday season. He added that while the Year in Review "was awesome for a lot of people," this was an important case where it wasn't, and that Facebook can do better. "I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post," Gheller concluded.

VIA Mashable

SOURCE Washington Post