Facebook’s “Real Name” policy has been controversial, even though it may seem reasonable on its face. Facebook’s position has always been to “require people to use the name their friends and family know them by,” in order to combat the downsides of anonymity. Unfortunately, Facebook’s been a bit over-zealous about what they decide is a “real name”. Thankfully, they recently updated their policy to include an arbitration system where the person accused of using a fake name can explain themselves, but it’s only available for one percent of Facebook users at this point.
While Facebook’s intentions might be good, unfortunately, these groups have unfairly faced the brunt of the “Real Name” policy.
The American Indians have historically been treated with kindness and respect by white Americans. Just kidding! In yet another indignity, Facebook has decided that many American Indians’ names aren’t real enough — despite being provided with multiple forms of official ID. While Facebook has protected some individuals’ accounts, even in their apology over the real name issue, they ignored American Indians.
While Facebook says that real names make people “more accountable for what they say”, they also make it easier to find people… including people who might not want to be found. The Daily Beast shares the story of “Lily”, a woman who had been beaten and raped repeatedly by an ex. On Facebook, Lily had used a pseudonym until she was caught by the “Real Name” policy. After restoring her account with her real name, her ex found her only two weeks later. Facebook posted a guide for Survivors of Abuse back in 2013… unfortunately, Lily’s story happened this year.
Not every trans person feels safe to come out in their real lives, but online, they can be themselves — under a pseudonym, of course, so they don’t get outed. Likewise, even if a trans person is out in their day-to-day lives, they might not be able to afford to have their legal documents changed, meaning that as far as Facebook is concerned, the name they go by isn’t a “real name”. When you combine that with some Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (or TERFs) actively working to out and harass trans women, it’s a huge, ugly mess.
Artists And Writers
Many artists use pseudonyms in their work. For example, the cartoonist Derf Backderf, creator of the excellent comics My Friend Dahmer, Punk Rock & Trailer Parks and the brand-new Trashed, has had problems in using his professional name versus his “real name”. When asked about the policy, Derf explained:
Yeah, I’ve been nailed twice by the Facebook Monolith for using my pen name, Derf Backderf. The Monolith forced me to use my legal name, John, which no one but my Mom calls me, not even my wife. I finally managed to coax it to John Derf Backderf. It’s aggravating as hell. What facebook wants, of course, is to force me to set up a fan page, where I’ll be allowed to use my pen name. But no one sees those pages in their newsfeed, unless I pay Facebook an exorbitant fee to get that placement. So, like all things, it’s a money grab.
The Monolith is getting a lot of press over their alleged name policy change, but when I tried to change my name, it wasn’t allowed. So I call bullshit.
(Featured image via Christopher/Flickr)