Facebook Changes Its “Real Name” Policy. A Little. Sort Of.

Meh. With a side of meh.

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Facebook has been feeling the heat from activists, human rights organizations, and individuals who have legitimate reasons for their names on the platform to change the “real name” policy they adopted this year. Well, Facebook has finally tweaked the policy in the hopes of making it harder for people to flag users in an abusive way, while making it easier for those who aren’t using their real name to explain why. But…why do we need this policy at all?

Vice President of Global Operations Justin Osofsky and Product Manager Todd Gage laid out how their tools would “make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary,” while cutting down on verification requests. It works like this:

reporting on facebook

One now needs to provide context if they want to submit a verification request other than simply reporting a “fake name.” Now, they need to provide a detailed reason, which is good. However, while the first two reasons for reporting make sense to me, and would defend against things like identity theft, that last one – “using a name that they don’t go by in everyday life” makes me scratch my head. Um, it’s called the Internet. And while I understand the need for safety on social media platforms, I don’t understand how using a “fake name” (that isn’t attached to an identity) matters. There are probably hundreds of “Bob Smiths” on Facebook right now. Are all the Bob Smiths being asked to verify that they are the Bob Smith to which they refer?

Names don’t matter, identities do. And as long as the identity you present on Facebook belongs to no one but you, the name you use should be irrelevant. I should be able to call myself Sparkles McSugartits if I want, and it shouldn’t make a difference. Because I’d be the Sparkles McSugartits with this face and this personal info and this life. So, even if there are a million other Sparkles McSugartitses out there, and even if Sparkles McSugartits isn’t my real name (PS – it isn’t. Though I would love to meet the person whose mother actually named them that!), Facebook shouldn’t be able to tell me not to use that name, so long as they can connect that name to my information.

Also, it’s not like Facebook is a freaking public utility. You’re Facebook, Facebook. Your the place where people post baby pictures and videos of their pets. Get your head out of your own ass and recognize that though many people use you, you’re not that important. A Facebook profile is not the equivalent of a legal document. I don’t care what your Terms say.

That said, Facebook’s new tools also offer people more options in defending their names:

Facebooknameexplain

So, this will allow Facebook to understand the reasons why people have chosen to use the names they do, and they give the impression they understand that trans people, victims of cyberbullying or abuse, and others have legitimate reasons for going by different names on the platform.

However, it still requires people who are possibly already marginalized to defend themselves. It puts the onus on them to “prove it.” This is a small step in the right direction, but Facebook still has a ways to go.

Personally, I think that users should be judged by their actions on Facebook, and held accountable to their identities, not simply their names. I’m not sure this policy tweak does the job that needs doing. What do you think? Tell us below!

(via The Daily Dot)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.