An Arizona couple says their last name is causing a controversy that’s keeping them off Facebook.
What’s in a name? For Facebook, apparently, the opportunity to spam or hide behind presumed fake identities. Let’s face it: there are plenty of clearly fake identities on Facebook, despite the fact that the site requires people not to use aliases when creating profiles. I often see people hiding behind such profiles leaving particularly incendiary comments, leaving me to wonder if they’d have the guts to do so if their real name and likeness were being used. (Some would, some probably wouldn’t.)
But if Facebook was trying to prevent a couple from creating a false persona, it could have done a bit more homework.
An Arizona couple, whose last name is Avatar, says Facebook deleted the husband’s profile and then refused to restore it until they provide legal documentation their last name actually is Avatar:
In order to prove that they have not made up their last name, Balizar and Audry say Facebook has required them to provide copies of their driver’s licenses and other paperwork.
Since I no longer have an actual phone book — remember those? — I did a quick search of Anywho.com for anyone with the last name “Avatar.” It turns out that in about a half-millisecond, the site returned pages of results, from people living from California to New York and plenty of points in between.
While I’ve never known anyone with the last name Avatar, it is definitely a valid surname. Facebook could have come to that conclusion at least as quickly as I did, but it’s likely they set some code to watch for suspicious names to automatically flag, and, as anyone who’s had a problem with Facebook knows, once the giant makes a decision, even an automated one, getting to an actual human being to rectify the situation is about as easy as winning the Powerball lottery twice in the same month.
Avatar, in case you’ve lived under a rock the past few years, is also the name of a John Cameron fantasy film about large blue-skinned aliens on the planet Pandora. A sequel is planned for the end of 2017. If that perceived connection is the reason Facebook took their stand against the Avatar family, they’re certainly out for a pre-emptive strike: they’re two-and-a-half years ahead of the release of the movie.
And from the photos in the story linked above, the couple at the center of the controversy doesn’t even have blue skin.
A little common sense could have easily avoided this silliness. I don’t know of anyone, for example, with the last name “Jones,” who was ever banned from Facebook because of an Indiana Jones movie.