Twitter CEO Elon Musk said on Monday the platform would begin “purging” accounts that have remained inactive for years, warning users that their number of followers would likely drop in the coming days.
The update immediately sparked concern, with users worrying about issues including whether the move would result in years of historical documentation being deleted or the permanent silencing of jailed political dissidents without access to their accounts.
In light of Twitter’s update, here’s a look at how other social media platforms deal with accounts of those who have died.
The View From Facebook and Instagram
Meta has for years had a robust system in place for dealing with users who die.
Upon death, friends or relatives of the user can contact Facebook or Instagram and the company will “memorialize” the user’s account. Depending on the users’ settings prior to death, friends can then use the account to share memories or photos of the users, according to the platform’s terms of service.
But active users can also assign a “legacy contact” that would take over and manage an account’s settings in case of death. The legacy contact has the option to delete the account altogether if the deceased user did not previously request deletion of the account. Meta cannot, however, disclose login information for an account if the user did not assign a contact.
The View From YouTube
Like Facebook, YouTube also allows current users to assign an Inactive Account Manager, according to company policy.
In case of death where nobody was assigned as a contact, YouTube’s parent Google can work with immediate family members to close the account, and in some cases, provide certain content or funds from the deceased person’s account to a living family member.
The View From Snapchat
The photo-messaging app does not state on its website its policy for dealing with inactive accounts, including in cases of death, and there are conflicting reports on whether the company actually deletes the accounts after a period of inactivity. Snapchat did not immediately reply to Semafor’s request for comment.