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Facebook Issues Apology After 'Year In Review' Feature Turns Tragic For Some Users

In some cases, 'algorithmic cruelty' ensued.

Facebook seems to have made a mistake in implementing their “Year In Review” feature this week, one that’s left a lot of users feeling tragic rather than cheerful.

The feature uses the tagline “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.” This is a rather far-reaching blanket statement, though—some people did not have a great year, and would prefer not to be reminded of it.

Such is the case of web designer Eric Meyer, reports the Washington Post. Earlier this year his daughter passed away from brain cancer on her sixth birthday. Eric didn’t want to relive his paiful memories, but was forced to when Facebook automatically positioned the “Year In Review” banner at the top of his newsfeed. The algorithm for choosing which images appear in the banner depends on how many "likes" they’ve received.

In a blog post, Eric criticized the social network for its callousness:

“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... But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones…we might not want another look at this past year.”

Jonathan Gheller, Facebook’s project manager for "Year in Review,” apologized to Meyer and released a statement to the Post addressing the issue:

"[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy,” he said. "We can do better -- I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post."

Did you use the Year In Review feature? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.