Facebook Updates “Real Name” Policy, Affects Trans, Others

nicole lashombNicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times
Photo. TRT Archives
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Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times Photo. TRT Archives

Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times
Photo. TRT Archives

By: Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief—

Facebook has been under fire by thousands of LGBT organizations, groups and activists and concerned users for its discriminatory “real name” policy, often resulting in suspension and eventual deactivation of transgender and gender non-conforming user accounts, until now.

The social media site’s “real name policy” currently requires users to register with the name that is most widely known to family and friends, according its regulations. Although legal names are not required, many transgender people, drag queens, other performers and other marginalized groups such as Native Americans have had accounts suspended for not using a name widely known as their identity. How does this come to be? Simply put, other users report them.

“We are deeply invested in making this better,” wrote Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of growth, in a recent company announcement. “I’ve … heard the feedback from the LGBT and other communities that our policy and tools aren’t enabling people to be their authentic selves on Facebook.” [pullquote]There are many additional reasons that individuals use a fake name on a social media network, including survivors of domestic violence, or those who must protect their identity for ongoing safety issues.[/pullquote]

There are many additional reasons that individuals use a fake name on a social media network, including survivors of domestic violence, or those who must protect their identity for ongoing safety issues. Some may say, “They don’t have to have an account. In today’s social media obsessed culture, who doesn’t need a social media account? Personally, I can think of many who shouldn’t have one … pedophiles, rapists, bullies, and abusers who can use the platform to victimize others. But, those aren’t the people who seem to suffer from the current “real name” policy.

If a user’s “real name” was in question, under current policy, they are required to submit “proof” to Facebook, such as a utility bill, to prove their identity. Ridiculous and over the top, I say, and they finally said so too.

As of December when the new policy enters its testing phase, users who register under a different name other than what is listed on their driver’s license, can “provide some context as to why the name does not match,” without providing documentation, Yahoo News reported.

As for those who report others to the site for using a fake name, they will have to prove merit for their claim. Facebook hopes this will make it harder for false claims to be made without cause.

“When people use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say,” Schultz continued in the release. Like many other online forums, the company also found that incidences of bullying were substantially more likely to be initiated by those using fake names.

Although the updated policy may not be perfect, it is a step in the right direction for now. Bravo this time around.

*Nicole Lashomb is an activist, a vocalist and the Editor-In-Chief of The Rainbow Times. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Crane School of Music (SUNY Potsdam), and an MBA from Marylhurst University. Contact her at: editor@therainbowtimesmass.com.