I am not a drag queen. But I was very curious about how Facebook’s policy of requiring a “real name” prevented drag queens from using its services. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/01/353053455/facebook-apologizes-for-name-policy-that-affected-lgbt-community).
It seems that someone had the time and energy to bother collecting a list of drag queen names on Facebook to get them removed. And it worked. At least for a bit. But public pressure from prominent drag queens such as Sister Roma and internal pressure from gay employees at Facebook not only helped get their accounts restored: they got an apology, too. Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said that enforcement of the “real name” policy would need to be handled somewhat differently in the future.
“We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we’re going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were,” reads Cox’s apology on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chris.cox/posts/10101301777354543)
The policy, however, stays.
“Cox stood by the original “real name” policy — which, by the way, Facebook says is not synonymous with requiring “legal” names. He said the rule helps Facebook stand out amid all the anonymity online and helps keep users safe from anonymous cyberbullying,” according to the NPR article.
I found it interesting that Facebook distinguishes between “real” and “legal” names. If Facebook claims its policy helps deter anonymous cyber-bullying, than “real” (as opposed to “legal”) shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Any troll can make up a name, right? But going back to Cox’s statement, he says, “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life.” This could be verified by a gym membership card in theory, if Facebook wanted to check. I guess that resolves my issue…
I suppose my real question is, is anonymous cyber-bullying really as bad as knowing who the bully is. To me, knowing who your bully is makes it more scary, more real (ok, anonymous death threats aside). I’m thinking again of the Canadian teenagers who took their own lives in the last couple of years… I think they knew very well who was causing their misery. I haven’t been using Facebook much in the last couple years, though, so maybe the things you’ve heard can help me understand this better.