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Breaking News: Facebook to Change Real Name Policy

The efforts of drag queens and LGBT activists have paid off! Facebook has agreed to change the way it enforces its “real name” policy and to change the standards for what makes a name “real.”

We have been following this story on Queereka. Facebook started cracking down on the accounts of drag queens and other performers a couple weeks ago. Their policy is that accounts must display the “real name” of the holder, and performers with stage names should switch to celebrity pages. However, pages do not fulfill the needs of drag performers who sometimes take on second lives as their drag personas, and not everyone who was locked out of their accounts was a performer. Some people posting under their legal but non-Eurocentric names also had their accounts suspended.  Furthermore, many people, especially LGBTs and victims of abuse, are unable to post openly under their legal names. The community reacted with protests, petitions, and a surge of support for alternative social networks like Ello and Google+.

Today Facebook met again with protesters lead by the San Francisco drag community. They agreed to change the way in which the policy is enforced, and they apologized for the way that policy had “hurt” users. In addition, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox posted a long apology on his page.

I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.

He went on to admit that it appeared that drag queens had been specifically targeted by a malicious actor reporting their accounts.

The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn’t notice the pattern.

He added,

Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life.

We see through this event that there’s lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who’s real and who’s not, and the customer service for anyone who’s affected.

Pink News has more on this story, including Cox’s full apology. For more about today’s meeting, check out this article from The Guardian.

Featured image: San Francisco supervisor David Campos with Sister Romavia Eric Risberg/AP

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Jac is a bisexual, genderqueer, feminist, godless liberal. They grew up in small town Pennsylvania and spent their adulthood exploring progressively larger and queerer cities. They currently work as an online tutor in the subjects of math, science and writing. When they are not tutoring or carrying out the gay agenda, they enjoy reading, cooking, science documentaries, and long walks on the beach.


  1. October 2, 2014 at 4:05 am —

    >>”who’s real and who’s not”
    What, the-everliving, fuck? So people interacting online aren’t *real*? So pseudonyms, nyms and online persona aren’t *real*? They’re surely not insinuating that spending time on the internet is somehow “outside real life” are they? IRL surely means “when not playing computer games, being outside the imagination”, not “when offline”?
    >>”the authentic name they use in real life.”
    Ah, well fuck ’em. You can’t on the one hand say you’re trying to have an online service where people use their Real Name™ and have Authentic Experiences™ and at the same time imply that online interactions are inherantly “unreal”. That’s bullshit. Facebook isn’t some special “real” website, other websites aren’t less “authentic”, and there’s no special magic that turns an online interaction into a totes realistical extrasweet cupcake moment as soon as you share your legal name with other people, just as there’s no special magic that happens when I send someone by birth date, insurance code, ID number, credit card info, home address. This same logic applies to any stranger I meet on the street: my interaction doesn’t suddenly become real if I share my personal information, if they decide to harass or assault me you’re not allowed to discount it if they also show me their ID beforehand.
    The internet already is REAL, people.

  2. October 2, 2014 at 11:21 am —

    It’s really awesome that they blamed this whole thing on a “bad actor”. Makes me wonder how much responsibility they’re taking.

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