Facebook has taken an important first step towards revoking its controversial ‘real name’ requirement. The policy has been accused of homophobia, transphobia and endangering domestic violence surviviors.
If a person is suspected of using a fake name, Facebook’s policy is to suspend the profile until the user submitted some form of identification which matched the name on the page.
Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy has been criticised by the LGBTQI community, survivors of domestic violence and the drag community. Domestic violence survivors often try to to change their Facebook name to avoid stalking from their attacker and to give them a greater sense of anonymity. In 2014, a number of drag queen were suspended from Facebook for using their drag name instead of their ‘authentic’ name.
A petition on Change.org has attracted tens of thousands of signatures, the petition argues that: “many Facebook users use names that are not their ‘legal names’ to help protect their privacy and anonymity, with good reason. Victims of abuse, trans people, queer people who are not able to be safely ‘out’ and performers alike need to be able to socialise, connect, and build communities on social media safely.
“Forcing us to use our ‘real’ names opens the door to harassment, abuse, and violence.”
The vice president of global operations Justin Osofsky and product manager Todd Gage have released a press release which said: “Today, we will begin to test new tools that address two key goals. First, we want to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their name on Facebook when they are already using the name people know them by. Second, we want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary.
A new version of names reporting that requires people to provide context
“We are introducing a new version of the names reporting process that requires people to provide additional information about why they are reporting a name. In the past, people were able to simply report a “fake name” but now they will be required to go through several new steps that provide us more specifics about the report. This additional context will help our review teams better understand why someone is reporting a name, giving them more information about a specific situation.”