Facebook has apologised to a bloke who moaned about the free-content ad network's recent "Year in Review" feature, after the firm's clumsy algorithms tastelessly inserted painful, personal highlights from 2014.
The latest creepy function offered by the Mark Zuckerberg-run company offered a cheap-looking clip art album for users to share with others on the site.
Netizens who didn't customise the selection of photos before posting them on Facebook discovered a little too late that they were, in some instances, sharing depressing highlights from the past 12 months.
And it didn't help that Facebook added an automatic message that read:
It's been a great year! thanks for being part of it.
The Washington Post reported that Facebook's "Year in Review" product wonk Jonathan Gheller was "personally very sorry" for upsetting user Eric Meyer, after he penned a blog post attacking the heartless feature after it displayed a photo of his dead daughter.
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.
To show me Rebecca’s face and say “Here’s what your year looked like!” is jarring. It feels wrong, and coming from an actual person, it would be wrong. Coming from code, it’s just unfortunate. These are hard, hard problems. It isn’t easy to programmatically figure out if a picture has a ton of Likes because it’s hilarious, astounding, or heartbreaking.
Gheller admitted that Facebook had screwed up, "clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy," he said.
But Meyer was not the only one complaining about the Year in Review feature.
My year in review on @Facebook might be the most depressing thing ever. Thanks 4 reminding me about my expensive trips to NY & cheating bf— Emily Macintosh (@MyLifeOnMatch) December 27, 2014
I'm so glad that Facebook made my 'Year in Review' image a picture of my now dead dog. I totally wanted to sob uncontrollably this Xmas Eve.— Sarah-Jane (@isloveSJ) December 24, 2014
This is the photo Facebook picked out—my dead father's ashes—just to confirm my previous "year in review" tweet. pic.twitter.com/7wmx7SCUUz— Mark Duffy (@copyranter) December 24, 2014
Facebook just decided to entice me to view my year in review with a photo of my dead grandparents. Yeah, happy fucking days, @Facebook.— Rosie (@rosiedoes) December 23, 2014
Smooth, Zuck. Real smooth. ®