Why does Facebook need a real name? (COM0011 post #2)

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).

(mariancoan, freeimages.com)

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.

3 thoughts on “Why does Facebook need a real name? (COM0011 post #2)

  1. I think Facebook does have a point in requiring real names to be used, this can help authorities and parents in their investigations if there does happen to be some cyber bullying going on. But i do agree that whether you have a real name or a fake name online it does not diminish the severity of online bullying. I would hate being bombarded with death threats from a person who i didn’t know, let alone a nameless person or a person with a fake name. For safety reasons and to stop cyber bullying i think Facebook is doing what they can to help.

  2. I see your point, thanks for weighing in. I guess I would only “friend” people whom I knew, fake name or not. Can you get messages from people not accepted into your circle of friends if your profile is public?

  3. I like that Facebook says “the spirit of the policy”, which ultimately indicates that they know they cannot control what people do. You are right, it is so easy to lie about your legal name as well. Then again, I think issues will only arise if you are caught doing something illegal online, and then on top of that you used a fake name that went against the policy. Other than that, nobody actually knows if you are using a fake identity.

    Facebook will not be able confirm the identities of all its users. That is almost impossible, as it would require way more staff than they have (I once heard there are more facebook users than people on the earth…so it sure as heck would take a long time too).

    Having your real name would certainly help if legal situations arise though, so I certainly understand what Facebook is trying to accomplish.

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