After receiving criticism for its ‘real name’ policy, Facebook will be meeting with San Francisco officials to fix it.
In many places on the worldwide web, such as Twitter and the comments sections of most websites, we don’t have to use our real names. For whatever reason – maybe we’d rather go by a nickname or maybe we really want people to call us ‘SwagMaster420’ – we often embrace the chance to shed whatever our parents and guardians scribbled on our birth certificates and instead choose to go by something else. Except, that is, on Facebook. Understandably plenty of people just go by their real names, Facebook is a tool through which friends and family (who know your name) can stay in touch with you after all, and Facebook even requires us to use our legal names on the platform. But what happens if our legal name and our real names aren’t the same? Well that’s where things get somewhat more difficult.
The issue of Facebook’s real name policy is a difficult one particularly for members of the LGBT and drag communities. For trans* people and drag performers and artists, the name listed on their birth certificates may not be the name that they actually go by and not allowing them to change puts an immense amount of pressure on the person who will have to face the possibility of being misgendered or wrongly titled. No one should have to go through that but despite Facebook saying that users “have several different options available to them” if they want to use a different name, the fact of the matter is that Facebook either gives you hoops to jump through or just locks you out of your account altogether.
That’s what happened to Sister Roma of San Francisco drag group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who was locked out of her Facebook account and forced to go by the name on her birth certificate, Michael Williams, which is a name she says she hasn’t used for almost 30 years. Sister Roma also took to Twitter to voice her concerns, being joined by many others in the #mynameis campaign to express their frustration. The movement even led to a petition being created against the policy which now has just under 20,000 signatures as of the time of writing.
Furthermore, it’s also been noted that not only could Facebook’s policy could cause physical harm to those who are trans*, drag performers as well as those outside of those identities alike. For example, if someone is a victim of domestic abuse and has since fled that situation, they may wish to use Facebook under a different name save their abuser find them again. The same goes for those who have fought custody battles and may be using the site under a different name in an effort to protect themselves and their children.
These are all things that San Francisco officials will have urged Facebook to consider in a meeting that took place Wednesday. It’s yet unclear what the outcome of that has been but given that Google reversed a similar policy on their social networking site Google Plus when pushed to do so, there’s a chance that this round of policy backlash will see Facebook’s ways changed too.
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