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