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Facebook Backtracks On ‘Real Name’ Policy

Apologises To Those Affected

We recently reported on Facebook’s refusal to allow a community of drag queens to use their stage names on their profiles. Despite an online petition and mainstream news coverage, Facebook refused to budge on a naming policy that meant a user's name on the website needed to be the same as their name in real life. Despite Facebook's justification of the rule - they claimed it helped prevent cyber bullying - some thought it just made it easier for Facebook to be used as a tool for stalking others online. They also suggested that being unable to alter a Facebook name made it impossible to escape the grasp of bullies by changing your online identity.

However, the main issue was that the policy suppressed the groups of people who were most likely to want to use other names online. The people most affected were members of the drag queen/transgender community, as their secondary names form a huge part of their identity. Other victims of the rule included musicians, artists, actors and stage performers, whose acts rely on them 'becoming' their alter-egos as much as possible.
It seemed that Facebook had taken an unnecessarily firm 'put up or shut up' stance to the issue - and the site's users were unimpressed with how they'd handled the situation; despite the criticism, Facebook didn't seem to be budging. However, news emerged yesterday that the site had performed a complete U-turn - not only by relaxing the rules, but also by officially saying sorry for what had happened.

In an apology on behalf of the site by Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, those affected were mentioned at length.

"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."

The social media giants have also pledged to “fix the way this policy gets handled” in the future.

Facebook have officially blamed the recent troubles on an outside source. Apparently, an errant Facebook user took it upon themselves to report hundreds of accounts, flagging them in Facebook's software. Assuming this is true, reports that people had been banned for using 'false' names were untrue; it was actually the unfortunate result of one troll's immaturity. In fact, Facebook's real name policy never states that people need to use their legal birth names. Instead, it ensures that "everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life."

The Transgender Law Center, who had a meeting with Facebook representatives about the recent issues, said the following in a statement: 

"We had a very productive meeting with Facebook today in which they apologized for the way this situation has been handled, and they committed to making changes to the way they enforce their 'real names' policy to ensure that folks who need to use chosen names that reflect their authentic selves online are able to do so."

Facebook's users will feel relieved that the site took the time to explain what had happened and apologise. The U-turn is evidence that Facebook does actually care about its users, but many will wonder why they took such a long time to make amends - and even why they allowed themselves to seem so stubborn in the first place.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Facebook Backtracks On ‘Real Name’ Policy Reviewed by Emile Cole on Monday, October 06, 2014 Rating: 5
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