Facebook’s controversial ‘real names’ policy changes, a bit

16 Dec 2015

The ‘real names’ policy that has drawn criticism from Facebook users all over the world is undergoing a makeover, with the social media giant compromising with its annoyed users to try and reach a middle ground.

Following reports last month, Facebook has come good and implemented a bunch of amendments to its real names policy.

Yesterday (15 December), Facebook’s Justin Osofsky (VP of global operations) and Todd Gage (product manager) listed out how the company will shift its stance slightly, with the ways people can report ‘fake names’ somewhat more laborious.

Facebook real names: Real, not legal

Real names are not, it should be said, legal names. Facebook has previously said they are merely “the name that other people know them by”.

The reason it wants people to have names representative of themselves is, in its eyes, security. If you post a comment, using the name your friends and family know you by, your actions “carry more weight” because you are more accountable for what you say.

“It also makes it harder for bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behaviour,” according to Osofsky and Gage’s statement.

Previous work by Facebook found that bullying, harassment and other abuse on its site is far more likely to come from fake, rather than real, names.

Facebook real names: So, what’s new?

Well, first up, and as expected, there is a new way to report somebody’s name on Facebook. Rather than just clicking a button, you now need to provide additional information as to why the person you have a problem with should amend their name.

It is this additional information that will provide some context, and let Facebook make a (relatively speaking) informed decision.

Facebook real names

Second, there are fixes for the named user, too, allowing a bit of room for them explain why they use a particular name on their Facebook account.

Facebook real names

This move is clearly due to the overwhelmingly negative response Facebook has received from certain sections of its community over its real names policy.

For example, last year, some drag queens in the US had their Facebook accounts locked as they were deemed to be violating the real name policy.

Facebook real names: the result

The fallout was messy and brought to light how this issue impacts differently on people around the world. The Nameless Coalition was set up to lobby Facebook to change its rules, with this being the result.

Now the options for why you use a certain name include being affected by abuse, stalking or bullying; sexual orientation and ethnicity.

There have been other tweaks by Facebook too. For example, it claims that you don’t get bounced out of your account upon name issues anymore. Rather, you have seven days of access while you sort out the paperwork.

Also, the documentation the company requires for you to confirm your name has been expanded.

It’s all a big old compromise, really. Facebook gets to maintain what it perceives as a pursuit of safety for its users, and those slighted get to influence proceedings and get the policy close, relatively speaking, to what they consider workable.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic