Facebook Update their “Real Names” Policy


Facebook only wants to know the real YOU

Facebook’s “real names” policy has kicked up a stink of late, with drag queens and other members of the LGBT community finding their accounts suspended due to the fact that they have used their nicknames – including Sister Roma and Lil Hot Mess, among many others – instead of their real names on their profiles.

The policy states that users have to use the names that their family and friends associate with them, and is referred to by Facebook as a way to make their users more accountable, and therefore, lessening the risk of online bullying.

It isn’t just the LGBT community that have fallen foul of the policy, which can force Facebook to ask for your Government ID if they believe that your identity needs checking up on. Native Americans, victim of crime and other groups have complained that using their real names in their profiles could lead to them being put in danger.

Facebook’s Alex Schultz responded to an open letter sent to Facebook via a number of groups that stated that the policy was against free speech and that certain Facebook users were abusing the ‘Report Abuse’ button to enforce their prejudices against such groups. They called for the policy to be made more transparent, or gotten rid of altogether. (You can read the open letter in its entirety here.)

In the letter, Schultz said that whilst Facebook are ready and willing to tweak the policy in order to make it work for everybody, but they would not get rid of it entirely, as the company believes that, by making it a requirement for users to give their real name, people will be accountable for what they say and won’t be able to hide behind anonymity “to harass, bully or scam someone else”.

While Facebook didn’t mention any other social network, that comment instantly brings to mind the criticisms that face Twitter and other social media channels, where users can call themselves whatever they want and have free reign to say whatever they want, and to whom. Facebook are at least taking logical steps to be seen as actively seeking ways to eradicate online bullying and abuse on their network.

The site has also stated that they will no longer ask for government ID as proof of identity, and will ask for alternative forms of non-legal identification (mostly likely bills or library/student cards). The campaigners against the policy had brought up the government ID issue because it would lead transgender people and users not using their own name for legal reasons to be outed and potentially put in harm’s way.

Walking the “Real Names” Tightrope

To stop getting yourself banned, you can follow these guidelines when setting up your profile:

  • Symbols, numbers, unusual capitalisation, repeated characters or punctuation shouldn’t be used at all
  • Don’t use characters from more than one language
  • Don’t use professional titles such as “Dr” or “PhD” in your profile
  • No words, phrases or nicknames should take the place of your middle name
  • Don’t use offensive or suggestive words in your profile name
  • Don’t imitate somebody else’s name

What do you think about the Real Names policy? Do you agree with Facebook, or is there still more to be done in the name of free speech, protecting identities and safeguarding against online bullying? Let us know via Facebook & Twitter

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