Daily Management Review

In Wake of the Protests, Facebook Relaxes ‘Real Name’ Policy


In Wake of the Protests, Facebook Relaxes ‘Real Name’ Policy
After lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide, Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial “real names” policy.
This new rule, still officially require the use of “authentic names” on the site, has been previously resulted in criticism from varied groups including the drag community, Native Americans, and trans people,
Facebook does demand that users identify with the name that other people know them by even while the largest social media platform of the world does not require the use of “legal names” on the site.
With the company struggling to distinguish between authentic but unusual names and fakes, jokes or other identifiers which breach the policy, enforcement of that rule has been difficult.
Against the backdrop of the dissent from various groups, Facebook is making two major changes to the enforcement of the rule. The company hopes that this step would reduce the number of vulnerable individuals caught in the net. However this would also allow the company to censure users who simply make up a fake name for themselves.
After the change in Facebook, the users would now be allowed to “provide more information about their circumstances” in order to “give additional details or context on their unique situation”.
The new changes of the company would help Facebook to accurately assess whether the name supplied fits with the rules, says Alex Schultz, the company’s VP of Growth.
 “It will help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future,” he adds.
Users who flag others for using fake names would also have to provide more context to the claims would be the second change in the new rules, according to Facebook. Since Facebook often suspends profiles which it believes are breaching the real name policy, falsely flagging profiles for using a fake name has become a popular tool of harassment on the site.
Now, the site is building “a new version of the profile reporting process that requires people to provide additional information about why they are reporting a profile.
“This will help our teams better understand why someone is reporting a profile, giving them more information about the specific situation,” the company says.
In a letter responding to requests from the EFF, Human Rights Watch, ACLU and others, as outlined by Schultz, the company described the changes to provide “equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook as a central platform for online expression and communication”.
However Facebook rebuffed requests for changes of other aspects of the privacy groups’ requests. Users to be able to confirm their identities without submitting government ID was one of the request that was put forward to Facebook. The groups suggested “allowing users to submit written evidence, answer multiple-choice questions, or provide alternative documentation such as links to blogposts or other online platforms where they use the same identity”.
Facebook no longer requires exclusively government-issued IDs to verify identities said Schultz.
“People can confirm their name with many forms of non-legal identification, including things like utility bills, a bank statement, a piece of mail, a library card, a school ID card or a magazine subscription label,” he said.