FACEBOOK is today accused of adding to the pain of grieving families by refusing them access to their loved ones’ profiles.
It comes after the mother of schoolgirl Lucy McHugh condemned the social media giant for failing to give police the password to the account of the man suspected of killing her.
Detectives have now been forced to go through the lengthy legal process of applying to US judges for access to Stephen Nicholson’s Facebook page — which could hold vital clues to the killing.
He was subsequently jailed for 14 months for refusing to comply. But now The Sun on Sunday has learned that THOUSANDS of families have contacted Facebook since it launched in 2004, complaining it has prevented them from accessing their loved ones’ pages after they have died.
Using Facebook’s “legacy” option, users can name a family member to help turn their page into a memorial when they die, or delete it altogether.
If the nominated person chooses to keep the page going, they can share a final message with friends or change the profile photo.
But many of the social network’s 1.23billion users do not use this option, which results in grieving parents and partners being locked out of their loved ones’ accounts.
And with an estimated 8,000 users dying EVERY DAY, the media giant is struggling to resolve thousands of complaints from families.
Last night a Facebook spokesman said: “We always try to protect the wishes of those who have died. If they didn’t specify any final instructions on their profile, we leave the account exactly as that person left it.
We add ‘Remembering’ above the name on the person’s profile to make clear that the account is now a memorial site and to stop any new attempts to log into the account.
“Once we’ve done this, the profile remains on Facebook and is visible to the people who could already see it before it was memorialised.
“We don’t remove or change anything. This is our way of respecting the choices someone made while alive.”
Here, we reveal the heartbreaking testimonies of three people who felt let down and hurt by Facebook while they were grieving.
‘I’ve pleaded for access but nothing has worked’
MUM Louise Palmer, 53, was heartbroken when Facebook blocked her from accessing her dead daughter Becky’s page just 12 weeks after she died from a brain tumour.
They turned the account into a “memorial page” without consulting Louise – which meant all her daughter’s treasured last messages vanished.
Epilepsy nurse Louise said: “I was given no warning at all. Facebook messed with my life.”
And even now, she can only see a preview of Becky’s page – as if she is a stranger who has clicked on her profile.
Becky, 19, had battled a brain tumour for less than 12 months when her life was cut short in December 2011.
In the weeks before her death she had lost the ability to speak and type – so Louise would log into her daughter’s account for her and write messages on her behalf to the teen’s friends.
After Becky died, grieving Louise would go into the account and be comforted by reading the tributes to her only daughter.
But three months after Becky’s death, Facebook changed the account to a memorial page – which prevented her mum from viewing private messages, changing photos and liking comments.
Despite her best efforts, which included emailing Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg directly, Louise was denied access on the grounds it was invading Becky’s privacy. Louise, from Dudley, West Mids, said: “I was facing every parent’s worst nightmare but then I had Facebook to deal with too.
“Getting Facebook to give me access to Becky’s account became the focus of my life for months.
“I understand that not all teenagers would want their parents reading through their private messages.
“But we were incredibly close and shared everything, which is why she gave me her login details.
“I pleaded with Facebook but nothing worked.
“I spent hours crying over not being able to access her account but as time has passed I’ve had to learn to cope without it.”
“I have no idea why her page was closed down and we still don’t know now.
“Other families have since come forward with similar stories. Something needs to change.”
‘Murderer’s face kept on her page’
DISTRAUGHT dad Nick Gazzard was sickened when Facebook turned his dead daughter’s page into a memorial featuring nine images of her with her killer.
Hollie, 20, was brutally stabbed 14 times by ex Asher Maslin, 26, in February 2014.
Nick repeatedly appealed to Facebook to remove the chilling images from the hairdresser’s memorialised page – but the US media giant refused.
It eventually relented after Hollie’s grieving dad set up a petition which received 11,000 signatures.
Nick, from Gloucester, said: “I was so distressed. Facebook needs to change its policy.”
Hollie’s sister Chloe, 28, said: “I just wanted to remember her in happy times without seeing the face of her killer. We’re looking into changing Facebook rules for other families.”
A Facebook spokesman said: “In this case we received a report of copyright infringement and we removed the content in response to that report.”
‘It could have asked me before erasing our pics’
FACEBOOK refused to tell grieving Azra Sabados who had asked for her late partner’s Facebook profile to be erased – with the loss of treasured mementoes.
Jazz musician Mirza Krupalija suffered a fatal heart attack just after his 57th birthday in 2016 and six months later his account was taken down.
Azra, from London, pictured with Mirza, said: “You lose someone you love and you try to hang on to everything, and then something happens and you can’t explain that either.
“Lots of Mirza’s profile included me and our travels, our photos, music he shared. They could have sent me an email to check before deleting it all.”
Instead, Azra spent a year talking to Facebook before taking legal action which forced the company to tell her who was responsible.
But she added: “It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, it caused a lot of distress. We want Facebook to say exactly what their process is when they get such a request.”
Tory MP Simon Hart, of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: “I find it mystifying that Facebook thinks it can still come up with excuses.”