The protest goes back to the fact that Facebook still requires users to register with “authentic names” and provide identification if asked, or face being locked out of their accounts.
Last September, the debate over the real-name policy flared up as drag queens and other LGBT community members were locked out of their accounts after somebody reported hundreds as having “fake names.”
Facebook adjusted the policy to accept many more types of IDs — like bank statements or magazine subscriptions — as long as one of them has a photo or a date of birth that matches the information on the Facebook profile.
But seven months later, members of the drag community are saying they have not seen enough progress. Their victory rally was apparently held too soon, as people still report losing access over name issues:
“Given the harm that it’s doing to people, we don’t think Facebook deserves to march with our community,” organiser Lil Miss Hot Mess told Business Insider. “It’s nice to see that they want to publicly support the community but if they want to do that, they need to match it with their actions and not just showing up.”
Starting this week, Facebook is changing how it treats reports of fake names. Before, it locked the user out of their profile as soon as a fake name report was submitted. Now, it will let accounts stay open for a short window while users prove their identity.
But it’s “too small of a Band-Aid” for the larger issues facing these groups, said Lil Miss Hot Mess.
“Ultimately, it’s too little, too late,” she said. “It doesn’t address the fundamental issue of the fake name reporting tool, which is dangerous and discriminatory for many users.”
Transgendered youth, for example, may not have an option to get a library card or other form of ID with their preferred name, but rely on Facebook to get support from people around the world.
As Pacific Standard Magazine pointed out, the problem isn’t confined to the U.S., either. Political dissidents in Egypt, for example, use pseudonyms to spread their message. In February, another spate of fake name reporting affected some Native Americans — when Dana Lone Elk changed her name to Dana Lone Hill, Facebook locked her out.
“Some of the most serious and disturbing stories we’ve heard are from transgender people for whom having a Facebook account under their preferred name is a matter of safety and security,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said. “We’re hoping that LGBT employees at Facebook will take this seriously and help us advocate from the inside and not see us as a personal attack.”
Facebook may have eased up on the definition of an “authentic” name, but it doesn’t seem ready to back down on the requirement.
“We are committed to ensuring that all members of the Facebook community can use the names that they use in real life. Having people use their authentic names makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech,” the company said in an emailed statement.