Facebook unintentionally created a worldwide firestorm and media frenzy when it announced that accounts not bearing the owners legal name would be suspended. Ideally this was intended to rid the 1+ billion-subscriber social of many unneeded duplicate, fake, or otherwise fictional accounts. What it appears Facebook did not see coming was the absolute rage with which the LGBTQ community came down on Facebook for putting users who identify with a name other than their legally given name, in an uncomfortable position. The end result would be for instance that a man identifying as a woman, would either have to use her male name, or have her Facebook account suspended indefinitely. The LGBTQ community is not the only one affected, as requiring legal names could endanger undocumented immigrants, political activists, and a plethora of other vulnerable groups whose identities may be of a sensitive nature.
Facebook has apologized for its policy
After enormous backlash from many of its users, Facebook has apologized for its policy, which has in fact been policy for 10 years and was just now going to be strictly enforced. Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox issues a lengthy statement apologizing on behalf of the social network giant. “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…” his statement reads. Cox goes on to say that though the policy has been intended purely for good over its 10 long years (Facebook has been around for 10 years…wow), that Facebook will indeed be updating their policy, and will allow users to use the name they would use in real life, versus strictly requiring a legally given name. They will still insist that users not create completely fictional profiles and go by the names they use in every day life.
It’s the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day
“We believe this is the right policy for Facebook for two reasons. First, it’s part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the Internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it’s the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm. The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it’s both terrifying and sad. Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good.” Interestingly in all this Cox asserts that they will not be changing the policy, but that the policy was in fact misinterpreted. “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”