Facebook apologizes for real name policy

In the face of criticism from GLBT groups, Facebook has rebranded its real names policy as an “authentic name” policy and apologized to the community.

“In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we’ve had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it,” said Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox in a post yesterday. “We’ve also come to understand how painful this has been.”

Cox said that the policy for the past ten years has been to ask for some form of legal identification when accounts are flagged as fake by other users.

He then added, confusingly, “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,” he said. “For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.”

However, he did not go as far as to say that Facebook will be abolishing its real name policy altogether.

We believe this is the right policy for Facebook for two reasons,” he said. “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.”

No love for avatars

Even if Facebook changes its real name policy to allow drag queens and others who use a name other than their legal name in real life, it still leaves avatars out in the cold.

By comparison, Google dropped its real name policy this summer.

Until Facebook completely reverses its position on real names, virtual world residents who prefer to interact with their in-world friends via their avatar names would be better off in Google Plus communities like OpenSim Virtual, or virtual world-friendly social networks like Avatar Social Network or SL Universe. (Disclosure: Avatar Social Network is an advertiser on Hypergrid Business.)

Or Ello, but you’d have to get on a waiting list of reportedly more than a million people.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

3 Responses

  1. hanheld@yahoo.com' Han Held says:

    “Opensim Virtual” requires that you ask permission to join. While you await approval, feel free to join my metaverse-oriented group “All the worlds”, which can be found here: https://plus.google.com/communities/117382570099525680033

    Also, if social networking is your thing, Diaspora is open today, and has all the features that ello claims to ..but for real (https://aralbalkan.com/notes/ello-goodbye/). You can join many of us opensim people over at http://joindiaspora.com/

  2. sonichedgehog_hyperblast00@yahoo.com' Mircea Kitsune says:

    God… why would any serious website in year 2014 care about your real life identity?! In some cases, real life is real life and internet is internet… yet some people continue to be obsessed with forcing the two together.

    Honestly though, I think the reason for the real name policies is simply censorship. So they can restrict what news / images / etc you see based on your country, age, etc. And of course, to help big brother NSA know who’s who.

  3. sjatkins@mac.com' Samantha Atkins says:

    I have ignored all such policies for my main avatar since forever without issue.