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Gazette Premium Content Father's appeal elicits Facebook tribute video

Associated Press Updated: February 6, 2014 at 6:47 pm

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A grieving father's personal appeal to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has prompted the social network to release a retrospective video tribute of the man's deceased 21-year-old son.

John Berlin, 46, of suburban St. Louis posted a YouTube message to Zuckerberg on Wednesday seeking a copy of Facebook's new "look back" video feature for his late son, Jesse, who died in his sleep in January 2012 of unknown causes.

The automated tool creates a 62-second video using photos and comments previously posted by Facebook users. The YouTube plea has since drawn more than 1.25 million views.

"You ever do something crazy 'cause you just don't know what to do anymore?" a tearful Berlin said in the YouTube plea. "Well, that's what I'm doing right now."

Facebook typically disables the accounts of people who have died. But the company said in a statement Thursday that it granted Berlin's request and suggested Facebook might alter its policies on information posted by users who later died.

"With the number of people using our service, it's often very difficult to act on behalf of one. But John's story and emotion moved us to take action — so we did," the statement said. "This experience reinforced to us that there's more Facebook can do to help people celebrate and commemorate the lives of people they have lost. We'll have more to share in the coming weeks and months."

Berlin, a personal trainer who lives in Arnold, Mo., said Thursday he was overwhelmed by Facebook's rapid response as well as messages of support he's received from all over the world.

"I never expected any of this to happen," he said. "All I want is every little piece of him I can get."

Facebook unveiled the new feature, entitled "A Look Back," on Tuesday to commemorate its 10th anniversary. The customized video shows the year a user joined along with a selection of the most-liked photos and messages, backed by instrumental music.

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Online:

Berlin's appeal to Facebook, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPT28MGhprY

Facebook: A Look Back, www.facebook.com/lookback

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Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/azagier

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