New Delhi: A social activist has served a legal notice on Facebook after his account on the social media portal was memorialised last month. Mohd Abuzar, who is associated with the NGO Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), is seeking Rs 5 lakh in compensation and an “unconditional apology” from the social media giant.
His account was restored Tuesday, more than a month after it was memorialised, Abuzar said in a press statement. The action came a day after the legal notice was served, with Facebook also issuing an apology to Abuzar, he added.
When a Facebook user dies, their account is memorialised to offer friends and family “a place… to gather and share memories after a person has passed away”. You can tell an account is memorialised if the word “Remembering” is shown next to the person’s name on their profile.
It was just four years ago that a glitch reportedly led Facebook to mistakenly memorialise the accounts of 20 lakh people, including that of founder Mark Zuckerberg.
According to Abuzar’s legal notice, sent through advocate A.A. Chaus, he first noticed that Facebook had declared him dead on 13 September. “To the utter shock and dismay of my client, on 13th September 2020, my client woke up with a number of phone calls from friends and relatives expressing their grief and many friends visited his house with the same grief,” it states.
The legal notice says Abuzar was notified by friends and family members that Facebook had posted a public message on his account asking them to pay “tribute” to him by sharing stories.
When Abuzar tried to log into his Facebook account, he was unable to do so, with the following message popping up, “Account unavailable. This account is in a special memorialised state.”
The account was finally restored on 20 October, Abuzar said in his press statement, issued Tuesday.
ThePrint has emailed Facebook for a response on the matter. When the 2016 gaffe came to light, Facebook had described it as a “terrible error”. “For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialised profiles was mistakenly posted to other accounts,” a Facebook spokesperson had told the news agency AFP. “This was a terrible error that we have now fixed.”
In his legal notice, Abuzar has accused Facebook of declaring him dead with an “evil design and intent to cause mental agony and harassment”, all because he “is vocal on the issues affecting and relating to the public”.
Abuzar’s Facebook posts include expressions of support for Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the contempt of court case earlier this year, calls to “register your dissent” on the third anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, posts regarding crimes against Dalits, and images that denounce the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. Abuzar has claimed the memorialisation has caused “immense trauma” to him.
The activist said he contacted Facebook the same day he discovered his account had been memorialised. Facebook asked him for a government ID, which he furnished, but he did not receive a response, he added.
“Finding no positive response from Facebook, I sent a legal notice through my counsel yesterday,” Abuzar said in his press statement. “In the afternoon today [20 October afternoon], I received an apology mail from Facebook and they informed me that my account is restored.”
However, he added that he “will take appropriate legal recourse in accordance with law for the mental trauma and harassment caused to me and my friends and relatives due to the arbitrary and malafide action of Facebook”.