Facebook announced it will change its real name policy next month, allowing some users to use a name other than their legal name if they can give a valid reason.
Buzzfeed reported on Friday that Facebook plans a change when it comes to a requirement that real names be used on profiles.
In an open letter to the social media giant, several groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and ACLU of California, complained the current policy unfairly targeted “members of the trans community as well as advocates who find it dangerous to use their real names in their work.”
Facebook Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz explained the reasoning behind the real name policy, which, applied to the majority of people, still makes sense:
We require people to use the name on Facebook that their friends and family know them by, andwe’ll continue to do so. From experience, we know this policy helps make Facebook safer. Whenpeople use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say, making itmore dicult to hide behind an anonymous name to harass, bully, spam or scam someone else.
What seems to have changed over time is the level of boldness some people have.
There was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — that people did seem to feel more accountable when their real name was displayed with their online remarks.
It seems, however, that more and more people, from what I can tell by things I read on various Facebook pages, don’t mind having a bevy of unkind, mean-spirited remarks tied to their real name, even if they’d never have the guts to say such things if they were face to face with their “victims.”
Even so, Facebook says requiring a real name does still make a difference:
A review of our reports from earlier this year showed that bullying, harassment or other abuseon Facebook is eight times more likely to be committed by people using names other than theirown than by the rest of the Facebook community.
Facebook is also changing the way it handles profiles reported as using a fake name; going forward, someone who reports someone else for using a fake name will have to provide more evidence that the profile is fake, other, presumably, than that the person behind the profile posts things they don’t happen to agree with.
I’m all for modifications to rules that make sure people are adequately protected. I’m particularly glad to see Facebook clamping down on those who would use reporting of purportedly false profiles as a means of making sure people’s opinions are shut out. I only hope that Facebook takes that one a step further and punishes those who chronically falsely report valid profiles as false.
It’s a social networking site. It doesn’t have to be this complicated.