Facebook tweaking rules in ‘Real Names’ policy after complaints

2 Nov 2015

Facebook’s ‘Real Names’ policy is something that many people may be unaware of, yet it’s something that has caused ire among users all over the world. And now, it seems, Facebook has responded.

The real names issue comes on the back of Facebook’s plans to make its social media site safer, which, claims the company, often boils down to anonymity or, rather, a lack thereof.

Facebook’s thinking is that, on the whole, if your Facebook profile is of your actual name then you are less likely to troll people.

According to its research, bullying, harassment or other abuse on Facebook is “eight times more likely” to be committed by people using fake names, in comparison to people who use ‘real’ names.

Facebook real names not legal names

I put ‘real’ in single quotation marks because Facebook has clarified that this does not mean ‘legal’ names, merely “the name that other people know them by”.

So, at the moment, people can file a complaint with Facebook that a fellow user’s name is fake, which may lead to the account being blocked.

That sounds fine, in some cases, but Facebook is way too big for ‘some cases’ to be a justifiable approach.

So, groups representing the trans community, people afraid of using their ‘real’ name or even the likes of Irish-speaking people are caught in an unpleasant situation.

Facebook real names dispute ongoing

Last month the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with a number of other groups, wrote to the social media giant about issues with this process.

This is something Facebook has now responded to, saying it will take steps to help sort out the complaints.

In a letter from the company, obtained by Buzzfeed, Alex Schultz sets out two changes that Facebook will trial.

First up, the actual complaints system will be altered so it’s not as easy to just lobby an account for review, with it soon requiring more hoops to jump through before your complaint is taken on board.

Secondly, when put in a position to defend your use of a username, this process will offer more ways of providing feedback, thus allowing for a better defence.

Encrypted and safe?

When submitting IDs to prove who you are, Facebook says this information will be encrypted and if your account gets blocked by the company there will be new ways to appeal.

“We’re making changes now and in the future, and will continue to engage with you and all who are committed to looking after the most vulnerable people using our product,” said Schultz.

“It’s a balance to get this right — we want to find a line that minimises bullying but maximises the potential for people to be their authentic selves on Facebook.”

Name tag image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic