Date
16 December 2017
Eric Meyer writes in his blog: “To show me Rebecca’s face and say 'Here’s what your year looked like!' is jarring. It feels wrong..." Photo: Meyerweb.com
Eric Meyer writes in his blog: “To show me Rebecca’s face and say 'Here’s what your year looked like!' is jarring. It feels wrong..." Photo: Meyerweb.com

Facebook says sorry for ‘inadvertent cruelty’

No offense meant, but it surely hurt.

Social media giant Facebook intended it as a gift for its more than a billion users, a kind of virtual photo album that contains the highlights of their year. 

But for many users, the app, which uses algorithm to choose the pictures to be included in the Year in Review album, has misfired, and as a result, backfired on Facebook.

In the case of writer and web designer Eric Meyer, the lead photo chosen for him was that of his daughter Rebecca, who died from a brain tumor on June 7, her sixth birthday, in her parents’ arms, Australian news website news.com.au reports.

As the standard design of the album, the picture of his child is framed by a merry illustration of partygoers and confetti with the default greeting: “Eric, here’s what your year looked like!”

For Meyer, the year certainly wasn’t “great” as the uniform Facebook post declares, according to Time Magazine.

“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,” Meyer writes in his blog post titled Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty.

“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.”

That’s the problem when you allow an unfeeling computer program to make decisions on matters that involve human emotions, and let it assume that when a picture obtains lots of likes and responses it must be a happy one.

Jonathan Gheller, Facebook’s product manager for the app, has contacted Meyer and apologized for the pain the program caused.

In a statement to the Washington Post, Gheller said: “[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy.”

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

Facebook used algorithm to choose the pictures for the virtual photo album it sent to users. Photo: Bloomberg


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