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What Happens to Facebook Page When You Die? Lawmakers Try to Decide

By Alexandra Ward   |   Tuesday, 05 Feb 2013 03:39 PM

New Hampshire has joined a handful of other states in trying to determine what happens to a person's Facebook page when they die.

New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Sullivan, a Democrat from Manchester, has introduced a bill that would allow the executor of an estate control the Facebook pages of the deceased, ABC News reported. The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted last week 222-128 to allow Sullivan more time to add an amendment to the bill.

Sullivan said in many cases, a dead person's Facebook or Twitter account remains active after they have died. This was an issue in Canada, where a teenage girl committed suicide after being bullied, and the harassing comments continued online even after her death.

"The family wasn't able to do anything; they didn't have access to her account," Sullivan told WMUR, a local TV station in New Hampshire. "They couldn't go in and delete those comments, and they couldn't take the page down completely."

Facebook and other social networking sites do have provisions to disable accounts of posthumous users, but Sullivan told WMUR that those functions are often complicated and time-consuming.

New Hampshire joins a list of states that have established legislation regulating a person's digital presence after death — Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana and Connecticut all have similar bills. Rhode Island and Connecticut were first, but their bills were limited in scope to email accounts, excluding social networking sites, according to ABC News.

Ryan Kiesel, then a state legislator from Oklahoma, sponsored a similar bill in 2010 called the Digital Property Management After Death law. Though he supports states' efforts to bring light to this issue, he also believes that this is a case that should eventually be taken up by the federal government.

"Facebook and other online providers have changed their privacy policies to keep up with the times, but we still see a lot of flux within different sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Google, for example," Kiesel told ABC News. "The federal government should pass uniform laws to govern all digital assets because it is quite difficult for an estate to have to navigate endless numbers of digital policies postmortem."

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