Facebook Responds To ‘Real Name’ Policy Backlash

Facebook has announced it will make adjustments to its real name policy after receiving backlash from those who do not use their real names due to factors such as transgender status or private work environments. Above, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen participating in a 2011 online town hall meeting with President Barack Obama in California. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

MENLO PARK, Calif., Oct. 31 (UPI) — Facebook announced it will make two considerable adjustments to its real name policy and verification process after facing heavy criticism.

The first change will allow those who do not or cannot use their real names online to explain their circumstances. The second gives users who report others a space to explain why they should be reported and blocked from their profiles. Both will reportedly be implemented in December.

Facebook Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz said the company plans to reduce the number of people prompted to verify their real name on the site. “We want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary,” he said in a letter to those affected and offended by the changes. Allowing a comment box for users to explain why they prefer an alternate name, he explains, will “help our Community Operations team better understand the situation.”

“It will also help us better understand why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future,” Schultz said. The name policy, however, isn’t going anywhere, he added. “When people use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say, making it more difficult to hide behind an anonymous name to harass, bully, spam or scam someone else.”

Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, also published a public apology for the flaws of the new policy, promising users the site will “fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were.”

“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,” he said.

The changes come as a response to a viral open letter written to Facebook regarding the limitations of the new policy. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU of California, among others, have sounded off against the “broken” policy.

“We are a coalition of people and organizations who represent and work to protect the rights of women, human rights activists, indigenous, religious, and ethnic minority communities, LGBTQ people, and Internet users who have found Facebook’s name policies to be culturally biased and technically flawed,” the letter, published in early October, read.

“Facebook maintains a system that disregards the circumstances of users in countries with low levels of internet penetration, exposes its users to danger, disrespects the identities of its users, and curtails free speech,” it continued.

Read Alex Shultz’s full response to the backlash here.


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