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Facebook still won’t change it’s “real name” policy but adds a loophole that might work

Facebook has a strict legal name only policy, but they’ve recently added a small loophole that could help users who go by something other than that name. Will it help?

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Now serving up loopholes

One year after apologizing for its controversial “real name” policy, Facebook maintains that it will not change the rule – but will begin to offer more loopholes for people who want to use an alternative name on the social media site.

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Privacy protection limited

Facebook’s policy has ignited outrage amongst many users who have had their accounts locked until they are able to prove – often by official identification documents – that the name on their Facebook profile is their legal name. After all, if Facebook is primarily a site for social networking, people should be able to network with whatever name they are comfortable with, whether it be a nickname they use in real life, or an alias used online to protect their privacy and limit who is able to find them.

Facebook’s policy is an unnerving reminder that the site is not only serving as a user-created social network, but also as a massive archive of personal data that anyone from advertisers to the NSA can access.

Legal names are not always the one people use

Besides wanting to use a nickname or alias, there are even more reasons why a person should have the right to choose their name on Facebook. Performance artists and musicians have stage names that they use more often than their legal names. Certain subcultures have traditions of taking on a chosen name. It is inconvenient to expect users to find one another using their legal names when that’s not the most common name they use.

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But Facebook’s policy isn’t just inconvenient – it’s also dangerous and disrespectful to some users.

Your chosen name matters

Survivors of abuse or stalking need to remain anonymous. Demanding that they use a real name could endanger them if their abusers are looking for them. Undocumented immigrants may use an alias to avoid detection by Homeland Security. Transgender individuals sometimes can’t or choose not to go through the tedious and expensive process of having their legal names changed.

It’s insulting to expect these individuals use the birth names that they abandoned long ago. Members of ethnic minorities sometimes change their names, for example, to leave behind the legacy of enslavement or assimilation and reclaim pride in their heritage.

The loophole: reporting

Despite the many reasons that people may want to use an alias instead of their legal name, Facebook insists that they are ‘firmly committed to this policy, and it is not changing.”

“However,” Vice President Justin Osofsky and Product Manager Todd Gage wrote in a recent blog post, “after hearing feedback from our community, we recognize that it’s also important that this policy work for everyone, especially communities who are marginalized or face discrimination.”

The site is testing tools that will make it easier for users who want to use an alternative name to explain why – giving moderators an opportunity to make a more informed decision when choosing whether or not to approve the name.

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You can now report yourself as someone affected by abuse, stalking, or bullying, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, or as an ethnic minority – and these designations might increase your chances of having your name approved.

Seven day grace period

Facebook is also allowing users to keep using their accounts for seven days while they collect and upload their identifying documents. Users who tattle-tale on others’ accounts for using “fake names” will also be required to explain why they are reporting the user.

Condescending policy

These changes will hopefully make it easier for individuals to use an alias – but unfortunately it doesn’t change the fact the Facebook insists on maintaining a sketchy and condescending policy.

People shouldn’t have to prove themselves, and Facebook shouldn’t have the authority to demand documentation and “approve” someone’s name. We should have the right to choose how we want to represent ourselves online.

#FacebookNamePolicy

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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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