We’ve written before about Facebook’s controversial Real Name policy which affected members of the LGBT community, trans* people and drag queens predominantly, and we’ve also talked about the new social media platform that drew the attention of a lot of the Facebook snubbed people, but if you haven’t given up on Facebook just yet, there’s good news for you. Facebook apologizes for the unfairness and is working to mend their policy.
Due to the policy, hundreds of LGBT users were forced to change their names on Facebook or have their accounts suspended because of their refusal to use their legal names. Many of these people felt that their legal names were not a part of their true identities, and some were even afraid of revealing their birth identities for various reasons. Affected drag queen Sister Roma has been actively speaking out against Facebook’s policy, and they have been receptive to her protests.
Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, wrote a long apology on his own Facebook page and updated us on what is being done to fix the problem. “I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks,” he said. “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.”
Cox went on to explain how this policy, which had been effective until recently, suddenly seemed to be targeting trans* people disproportionately. “The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn’t notice the pattern. The process we follow has been to ask the flagged accounts to verify they are using real names by submitting some form of ID — gym membership, library card, or piece of mail. We’ve had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it’s done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.”
Cox’s apology seems sincere and the reasons he’s given make sense. It seems Facebook is trying to make its policy fair, and Cox makes it clear that the company wants to support the individuals using names other than their legal names for legitimate reasons “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma.” Authenticity. That’s something we can all get on board with. Facebook is all about being authentic in who you are, and for these people, their authentic selves have little to do with their birth names.
Facebook stands by their policy to legitimize accounts, but is looking for ways to make this policy more fair. “We’re already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors,” says Cox, “and we’re taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way. To everyone affected by this, thank you for working through this with us and helping us to improve the safety and authenticity of the Facebook experience for everyone.”