For the past 36 hours, I have been locked out of my personal Facebook account because it was deemed a violation of the company’s real names policy. My only goal in maintaining personal separation has been common courtesy. My business contacts and people who follow my work on Kindness Communication don’t care about when I go to the beach, what I had for dinner, or similar details. But this is a real issue for many people out there. I’m fortunate enough not to need to use a pseudonym to benefit from the social connectivity Facebook offers, with no real alternative. I’m not being stalked, or fleeing an abuser, or at risk of threats to my economic or physical security because of my identity. In my enforced downtime, I’ve learned a lot about just how much harm has been done to others by Facebook’s policies.
You can learn more about it on the #MyNameIs Campaign website or in the many articles covering this policy and its implications (see below).
If you have a policy that spurs protests from communities as diverse as LGTBQ communities, victims of domestic abuse, Native Americans, drag performers, activists under oppressive regimes, teachers, therapists, and people with stigmatized medical conditions, you maybe should listen…don’t you think? Hard to imagine something that could be harmful to such a broad spectrum of interests could be anything but morally wrong.
Facebook is unquestionably complicit in the abuse it enables by means of its real names policy.
Three things need to happen:
- Facebook should change this, now.
- Facebook should acknowledge that its insistence on real names is not about protecting users, but about improving data quality for advertisers.
- Facebook should apologize to the communities it has placed under threat, and to the victims of harassment, bullying, discrimination, and violence who have already been harmed by its policy.
And while some may object that using Facebook is a personal choice, and that we should expect to give up rights when we use a free product, I believe that’s an easy cop-out. When a private company functions, for whatever reason, as an essentially public utility, it must take on the accountability for public good that comes with that role. This is a ultimately a kindness issue, because it touches on a company demonstrating true consideration for the people it affects.
- Women, LGBT least safe on Facebook, despite ‘real name’ policy, Engadget
- Natives Protest Facebook’s “Real Names” Policy, Native New Online
- How Facebook Exposes Domestic Violence Survivors, Daily Beast
- Protesters target Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy, BBC News
- A Glimpse From the Field: How Abusers Are Misusing Technology, Technology Safety