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DEATH AND SOCIAL MEDIA IMPLICATIONS FOR THE YOUNG AND WILL-LESS

Jurimetrics; Chicago Vol. 55, Iss. 3,  (Spring 2015): 381-405.

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ABSTRACT:

Every minute, 108 people die worldwide. That's almost two deaths per second. Every day, 8000 Facebook members die-and Facebook is just one of many social networks. With four in five Internet users using social networks and blogs, many Internet users die leaving behind social networking accounts-arguably, significant parts of themselves. Who should decide what happens to these personal accounts? While some users have begun adding digital assets to wills, the current state of the law is not up to date or clear on whether social networking accounts are part of a deceased's estate. And what about those users without wills? Ninety-four percent of U.S. teens use Facebook, and few are likely to have seriously contemplated death, let alone have wills in place. To eliminate this gap and confusion in the law, Congress needs to implement a uniform solution addressing social media access after death. The courts, and ultimately social networking sites themselves, would be bound to those standards, thus eliminating confusion and the need for wills pertaining to social networks. Moreover, social networking accounts are made to be modified and accessed solely by the creator, and thus should be legally construed as extensions of the self, whereby individual property rights in such accounts are extinguished upon death and remain nontransferable.

CITATION: Alexandra Elliott, Comment, Death and Social Media Implications for the Young and Will-less, 55 Jurimetrics J.381-405 (2015).

There were over 1.73 billion users on social networks in 2013.6 That is nearly one in four people worldwide.7 Considering only those with an Internet connection, four in five people have social media accounts.8 The two certainties in life are death and taxes. Inevitably, all of these people will die, and with an increasing amount of their lives being spent online, it is paramount to have clear policies in place...