Facebook apologises to drag queens for deleting their accounts

2 Oct 2014

Facebook has apologised to drag queens and the transgender community for deleting several hundred of their accounts that used alternative names instead of their real names on the social network.

“I want to apologise to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbours, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks,” chief product officer Chris Cox wrote in a Facebook post.

“We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we’re going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were.”

Facebook explained why the accounts were deleted in the first place: because they were among several hundred thousand fake name reports the company processes every week.

To improve this process, Facebook is taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so they can be managed “in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way,” Cox wrote.

Real names vs legal names

Facebook requires its members use their real names on the site for security reasons, to stand out from other sites, and for more effective targeted advertising, The San Francisco Examiner reported.

“Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess,” Cox wrote.

The San Francisco Examiner added that San Francisco supervisor David Campos met with Facebook representatives and members of the LGBT community yesterday. Facebook acknowledged it had erred and that the name policy has been harmful to some individuals.

Cox added that Facebook is already building better tools for “authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors”.

Last month, Facebook suggested performers maintain their stage identities on the site by creating pages that are meant for businesses and public figures. Users were unhappy with this suggestion, however, as a fan page is not the same as a regular Facebook account.

“I want my friends to find me,” Sister Roma, a queer nun with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence told told SFist. “I detest the idea of having a fan page. I’m not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.”

Facebook homepage image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic