Facebook’s Chris Cox wrote an open letter on Facebook’s real name policy in reaction to mass protest from the American LGBT community against its enforcement. Cox explains the motivation: “First, it’s part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it’s the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm. The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it’s both terrifying and sad. Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good.”

Cox also explains the rules: “Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. 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. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.”

Jillian York comments on this: “Facebook’s actual policy states: “What names are allowed on Facebook? … The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID”. Users who are reported are forced to submit (insecurely, no less) this information.”

Cox addresses the LGBT community as follows: “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. In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we’ve had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it. … 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.”

York states: “False. As I’ve been documenting for nearly five years, this is a serious problem that affects users around the world.”

Cox promises to make this better: “All that said, we see through this event that there’s lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who’s real and who’s not, and the customer service for anyone who’s affected. These have not worked flawlessly and we need to fix that.”

York adds: “Well good. Finally. I guess it took Americans being affected for them to care.”

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