Facebook Apologizes for Real Name Policy’s Impact, But No Real Changes Yet

Wednesday the ACLU, along with a coalition of partner organizations, went to Facebook to urge it to fix a flawed policy that requires users to speak in a voice other than the one they prefer.

Facebook’s current “real name” policy requires users to display the name featured on a formal piece of identification when they speak to the world on the platform. By conditioning user speech on the use of an identity preferred by Facebook, this policy raises free speech concerns. These concerns are particularly acute for some users, including transgender people with government IDs not matching their preferred name and domestic violence survivors who choose a pseudonym to protect themselves and their privacy.

More than a billion people rely on Facebook to communicate and connect with friends, family and their communities. And too often, people find themselves silenced for allegedly breaking a company rule and left without meaningful recourse. That’s what happened this past month when enforcement of the name policy had the effect of blocking many in the LGBTQ community from using the social network.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Facebook apologized for the harm that the current policy has caused users, especially those in the LGBTQ community, and promised to improve its reporting, enforcement, and appeals processes. This is an important first step, but there have not been any policy changes yet. We will be watching Facebook to ensure the company puts its resources where its mouth is and follows through with real policy changes.

Yet this discussion is about more than “real names.” It’s about Facebook’s responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure all users are treated in a fair and transparent manner. Previously, the inconsistent application of Facebook’s “community standards” has taken down other content including photos of two men kissing, a nursing mother, and even a cancer survivor. In another more ironic example of how these standards were enforced, the ACLU even had its own content improperly censored by Facebook.

In that case, the ACLU had the means to reach out to Facebook and quickly get the content restored. But for the many users whose profiles are suspended for allegedly violating the names policy or community standards, the lack of a meaningful appeals process means they often end up silenced. That’s why the coalition reminded Facebook that policies and processes that reduce discriminatory targeting and improper silencing of user voices are essential.

For many Facebook users, a real name is the one they prefer to speak with – even if that does not match a formal ID. Facebook is beginning to recognize this reality. Unfortunately, many users still remain locked out of their accounts or are being forced to display a name other than the one they prefer and that may raise safety risks. It’s time for Facebook to change its policy and procedures to give users meaningful free speech and due process rights on the platform.

A version of this post originally ran on the blog of the ACLU of Northern California

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HawkAtreides

It's important to note that, in the midst of Facebook removing content for violating name and nudity policies, they have had to be hit with multiple concentrated campaigns to remove groups actively engaged in harassing, intimidating, and interfering in the lives of the same people who are being told they have to use their real name.

Wisewon

Fact facebooks demand for real name policy and to prove it with Gov ID is in fact many violations of civil rights and seems totally political given the new elections coming up which many people use social media to better understand who is running in elections and perhaps who they'd rather vote for. Facebooks false claim that real names protect you is totally false. If person/s groups or others stalk or harass someone its simple to solve yourself. You get out of the group, you unfriend the person, you block the person if the problem is not solved you report them to facebook and report them to Police facebook is not the police and should not be acting as police their duty should be to give users the tools to protect themselves from unwanted others for any reason and use the police if need be. My facebook as been suspended going on 3 months now I cannot communicate with my family and friends or see what my teenager is up to and his friends. I live in a area that police is limited vary limited and active domestic terror has been taking place well over a year now with theifts and Arson having Burned Down 6 homes and buildings one lady died in a fire one murder unsolved a man shot in his home police are mostly useless in this area we were victims of a hate crime back in March still unsolved and highly likely still targets of these people filled with hate and crime. My facebook locked on me in July likely one of these domestic terrorist turned my facebook in to hide them and their criminal buddies. I must stay awake at night now to guard my home and work needed to be done is limited being I am retired money is limited had to invest in better home security and await to see if these criminal steel again from my home or worse burn it or my garages/shed down. Cannot communicate with local police well because facebook is their site to turn in criminals and remain hidden and calling them often is useless they fail to answer or relay a messages to officers unless its a 911 call even then they may or may not respond.. I refuse to give Facebook any copy of my real gov ID or Real Name their security and privacy is lame at best and they have not ever shown any valid need and did not ask ever signal user to show gov ID at Sign on or now so any name could be fake. wisewon is my nick-name, my Pen Name I invented over 35 years ago and that is what my family and friends know me by. So facebook has shown itself to in fact be against civil and human rights there are past people involved in domestic trouble that I do not want knowing my facebook or location and fully intend on keeping my privacy just that Private. My Parents work Highly secure Jobs another reason to remain totally private as I can and me in charge of my privacy and protections not facebook or any other private or public company that has no right whatsoever to violate any of our civil rights just to freely use their social media.

Anonymous

There are a lot of people who are in groups because they are ill and prefer not to have their real name revealed ...because of employment. This is a big mistake...I can not believe this is happening...and suppose they are 15 Nancy Jones in one group? It is better to have fake names..and if you really get to know the person they will tell you their real name.

Anonymous

Out of all the terrible things they do on a regular basis, this is the one you choose to pursue?
How about when they throw someone off the site for 72 hours because 7 days after her friend was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a few HOURS after Wayne LaPierre got on national television and did a 'don't-you-feel-sorry-for-the-NRA' spiel, she calls him a filthy capitalist pig who doesn't care about ANYone?
It's the truth and anyway, nobody threw him off national television when he was standing there making everything he was saying be about HIS poor, blighted ass.
It's got to be the most disgusting, despicable, inhumane action on EARTH to talk about your goddam self after twenty 6-y.o kids and 6 teachers were almost literally blown apart with the crap you're selling or supporting the sale of on a daily basis.
It's disgusting, reprehensible and beyond the aid or human help to be that way.

Anonymous

Yes, I have been blocked from Facebook because I chose to change my name to a pseudonym. I'm not a drag queen, I'm not an activist, just an average white middle-class citizen going about my day--I don't post anything inflammatory about work, personal matters, adult content, or anything really of significance to my wall, but it still felt more secure--and fun--to not state my real name.

Several days after Facebook blocked me, I decided to try adding ID to reinstate my account, and I cannot access the web site at all. The site merely returns a blank page when I enter my credentials. All my content is gone, my friends cannot see that my profile ever existed, and I'm considering whether to start a new account or ban facebook from my life forever. That's hard when there's so much energy behind the social sphere there.

Thank you ACLU for taking a stand.

Anonymous

I too am affected by Facebook's Real Name policy. I think Facebook has finally lost it and they need to be taken to court and sued for what they are worth.

Anonymous

I also have recently become victim to this... Apparently there are a lot of Native Americans (amongst other ethnic groups) being victimized because their names do not "sound real" to Facebook representatives.

Anonymous

that what is happening to my husband he is not allowed to use his real name cos to fb its sounds fake and have two gay male friends who have been death threatened on fb by this stalker, fb said put your mobile numbers is and it will secure the account , what happen the stalker hacked the account and fb let them get the damn numbers, they used different names to protect themselves and fab deleted them they made another fb delte it 6 times in one night, they can't even make new accounts cos they get fb demands id, i have gone to papers slagging fb and mark the owner off not that it will do much, I think fb need to get rid of the report button, for once stop hiding and give contact number to discuss with them on phone and change there policy on names

TheFreeTexan

Well, if you don't like it don't use Facebook. They are a private corporation that can conduct business as they see fit within the law. Now it may be "bad for business" to not comply with customer demands, however it is their choice.
Besides everyone knows, or should know, that almost no Internet communication is truly anonymous; not even the posts to this blog are anonymous. Every transaction is recorded along with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Each IP adress is connected to a service providers access protocol and recorded when used. Of course the lay person doesn't consider this. Most internet users don't understand the mechanics and tracking that is already in place in the "internet" and equipment used to operate it.
Lots of YouTube videos can teach people how to access and use IP information.

Wisewon

Fact just because gov has not kept up with the fast paced High Tech world violating free speech and personal privacy is not a right to Facebook private or public or my neighbor. The Constitution, the founding fathers and the people found no need to add a single amendment to right to privacy. they did not see that need it was safely assumed everyone had a right to privacy and your rights went with you no matter where you went not just in your home. If they meant that gov could not search your home or you without a valid warrant they meant gov or anyone else. If not then law or gov could just get my neighbor to search my home or break in so they could search it or have the local preacher do the same or search me as I walk down the street or ride my horse, wagon or today car/truck whatever.. The Framers were clear on our civil rights via the constitution like a set of ten commandments applied to all including none church type people. A clear set of rules for use all not to be twisted and turned and meanings changed as they are today they felt God gave us our rights not the gov and the people give gov the rights they the people all want and demand. Next Facebook has in fact blackmailed its users with them demanding use of all your personal material. now also demanding real name to show them a copy which even DMV cannot show copies to others and only Banks as for a copy and then they to can't show or sell it to others. So in fact Fackbook has blackmailed and extorted its users in order to allow them the use of a highly popular social media that many fail to see the privacy an free speech violations or issues and to communicate with family, friends work, co-workers and businesses because they all use Facebook so private people are forced and blackmailed an extorted to use facebook because our lawmakers are to far behind in the high tech world to make and pass laws to protect their citizens rights from big companies like facebook and cookies on your personal computers sold as such personal computer which means its mine and its private Cookies should long ago been made a felony and strictly enforced as a violation of privacy and any other code, software or program. Its Sad When Germany has a gov that protects its peoples right to privacy and protects their right to keep their real name address and personal info off facebook and the web. Sad that all our Military and people for generations have lived, worked and died to give us all full rights and protections and companies like facebook come along and demand to violate those civil rights and protections and under mind almost 300 years of freedom making all the lives wasted that fought in the name of freedom. Last Time I checked Blackmail and Extortion are still Felonies invasion of free speech and privacy should also long ago been made Felonies as well. Just because my neighbor goes on vacation I do not have a right to search his home or he goes in a bar so I think I can search his car because he failed to lock it or gave me a extra set of keys in case he needed them. People need to really think about their rights and who and what is violating them before we soon have no rights left.

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