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Facebook’s ‘Real Name’ Policy is Keeping Native Americans Out

Identity Crisis

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Facebook’s recent no-nonsense approach to names is intended to keep people from making spam or joke accounts, but it has had an unexpected side-effect. Numerous members of the Native American community have found themselves unable to create accounts because the site refuses to recognise their name. Many Native Americans, of course, have very literal names built out of adjective/noun conjunctions, something Facebook obviously didn’t anticipate.

One particular victim of the oversight, Dana Lone Hill, filed a class action suit against the social media colossus, coaxing them into making an active effort to restore her account. Sadly, Facebook’s singular effort to help Lone Hill isn’t universally applicable yet and many other Native Americans are still struggling to get in, having to go to great lengths to confirm their identities.

A very similar incident occurred in 2013, when numerous drag queens, transgender individuals and other members of the LGBT community hit the same wall, since they were trying to register their accounts under assumed names, stage names or pseudonyms. The issue was eventually resolved and Facebook apologised, but it took the better part of a year to reach that stage and progress has been similarly sluggish here.

Facebook’s argument is that strictly adhering to real names reduces any chance of anonymity, which in turn prevents people from accessing the site under false pretenses in order to spread prejudice and abuse. The policy also cuts nicknames out of the equation, even if they’re just used as middle names. I was Callum ‘Silver Fox’ Davies for a long time on Facebook, for instance, owing to my streak of extremely premature grey hair (on my head, you pervert), but this policy put an end to that, I logged in one fateful day and the moniker had simply vanished.

What Facebook clearly didn’t consider is that anonymity can protect the abused as much as it can enable abusers, since knowing someone’s real name makes it that much easier to harass them and even threaten them with violence, something the LGBT community has to deal with a great deal, sadly.

It’s likely that even as they try and patch the flaws in this policy, Facebook will continue to encounter issues. Beyond Native Americans, people who wish to use a different name for particular privacy reasons (like teachers who don’t want their students to see their account, for instance) may still encounter issues. Facebook might want to consider going back to the drawing board on this one.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook’s ‘Real Name’ Policy is Keeping Native Americans Out Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, March 02, 2015 Rating: 5
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