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Senators deal with what happens when Facebook users die

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(Associated Press file photo)

Sen. John Wightman doesn't have a Facebook account.

He doesn't have a Twitter account.

But he understands the probate issues of the digital afterlife -- what happens to such accounts when a person no longer is around to update his or her status or tweet about life. Read: after death.

So he is sponsoring a bill (LB783) at the request of the Nebraska Bar Association that would put into law that a personal representative can take control of, continue or terminate any social networking site, blog, email or message service on the Internet belonging to a person who dies.

There's no official authority now to terminate Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts, he said.

Facebook has put in place one way to deal with a deceased Facebook subscriber. It created  "memorialized" profiles, where people can save and share their memories.

Some call it a Facebook funeral.

When an account is memorialized, Facebook says, it can change privacy settings so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find it in a search. It removes sensitive information such as contact information and status updates. And it prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts.

Apps are starting to appear, too.

One of the first Facebook apps to address it is the "ifidie" application. It gives people an opportunity to record a message to be played after their demise, as verified by at least three "trustees" the person selects from his or her Facebook friends list.

It could be a life story, a secret not shared before, a will, a score the person wants to settle or advice to friends.

Wightman's bill would deal with it in a more state-endorsed way, giving specific authority for someone to handle the issue.

It's interesting, Wightman said, that the Legislature is having to address these issues.

It's not controversial. It's just part of what comes with the changes to technology and business, he said. 

The Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill Wednesday afternoon.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at



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