Technology & Science

Facebook makes changes to 'real names' policy after complaints

Facebook is making changes to a policy requiring people to use their real names, after complaints that it causes people from certain communities, such as individuals with Aboriginal names, to have their accounts suspended.

Users of the social networking service can describe special circumstances when asked to verify names

Facebook requires people to 'provide the name they use in real life' so that others know who they're connecting with, but is making changes to the policy based on complaints from people in certain communities. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Facebook is making changes to a policy requiring people to use their real names, after complaints that it causes people from certain communities, such as individuals with Aboriginal names, to have their accounts suspended.

Among the changes is a new tool that will allow people who are asked to verify their name to say they are in a special circumstance, for example, that they are:

  • Affected by abuse, stalking or bullying.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ).
  • A member of an ethnic minority.

Facebook requires people to "provide the name they use in real life" so that others know who they're connecting with.

"This helps keep our community safe," the company says.

When the company receives a complaint about a possible fake name, it requires the user to verify that their name is real by providing copies of identification, such as a driver's licence.

Facebook is testing another tool that requires people to provide more "context" when they report a name to be fake. (Facebook)

But the policy has been criticized for targeting names from certain groups, such as traditional Aboriginal names. Facebook apologized last year after many drag queen performers were locked out of their accounts for using names they went by, such as Sister Roma.

Marginalized communities

Facebook says it is still "firmly committed" to requiring people to use the name their friends and family know them by.

"However, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognize that it's also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalized or face discrimination," wrote Justin Osofsky, vice-president of global operations, and Todd Gage, product manager, in a post in the Facebook Newsroom on Tuesday.

Because of this, the company is testing new tools in the U.S. that:

  • Require people to provide more "context" when they report a name to be fake — for example, that the profile isn't a real person or the profile is using someone else's name.
  • Allow people to describe their special circumstance when asked to verify their name.

Facebook said it may still ask for ID from people who describe a special circumstance.

The company said it had already made a number of improvements over the last year, such as allowing people to keep using their accounts for seven days while they verify or update their name.

Facebook is testing a tool that would allow people to describe their special circumstance when asked to verify their name. (Facebook)

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