Several protesters from the LGBT community, Native Americans and survivors of domestic violence assembled Monday outside Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to oppose the social media website’s “real name” policy. The demonstrators are part of a campaign called #MyNameIs, which started last fall after the accounts of several people were shut down by the technology giant.
Many people including women, who have faced domestic violence, Native Americans, who use their tribal names, drag queens who often use stage or performance names, and transgender people who change their names or have problems with expressing their evolving identity, are reportedly part of the campaign.
Lil Miss Hot Mess, a drag queen from San Francisco, reportedly said that the protest, which was attended by about 100 people, was aimed to draw Facebook’s attention towards the bullying faced by such people.
The issue was raised last October and had led to a meeting between Transgender Law Center and Facebook. At the time, the company announced changes to the policy and broadened the requirements to verify real names. The website now accepts documents like magazine subscription, utility bills and library cards to verify names. Users also have a seven-day grace period for name verification, before their account is shut down.
The company's Chief Product Officer Chruis Cox had reportedly apologized to the communities after the meeting, saying: "I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, 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."
However, protesters argue that the process for reporting “fake names” is filled with abuse, and that the changes were too insignificant.
"The changes they have made are meaningful but they are small," Lil Miss Hot Mess said on Monday, according to USA Today, adding: "We have tried to suggest to Facebook that they find a way to authenticate a real human being without relying on verifying that person's name."
Facebook clarified that it does not actively seek to reach people violating the policy but only investigates the account after it gets flagged by other people.
“We firmly believe in and are committed to our authentic name policy, and ask that everyone on Facebook use their authentic name on their profile,” Facebook said in a post on Monday, adding: “Having people use their authentic names, helps protect our community from dangerous interactions.
“When people use their authentic names on Facebook they are more accountable for what they say. People can be assured that they’re really connecting with their loved ones, and no-one can hide behind an anonymous name to bully, taunt or say insensitive or inappropriate things. This creates a safer community for everyone,” Facebook said in the post.
However, protesters say, according to Mashable, that the company has been slow in taking action to support the community.
“Facebook apologized to us and said they would make major policy changes,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said on Monday, according to SF Gate, a local news website, adding: “But users still have the option to flag someone’s name for being fake, which encourages discrimination, bullying and malicious behavior for simply exercising our right to self-identify.”
“Facebook is out of touch with the majority of its users,” she reportedly said, adding: “This policy is dangerous, and it is discriminatory.”
In 2012, the Independent Center for Privacy Protection, a German watchdog, had ordered Facebook to stop implementing the policy of making its users register real names for setting up accounts. The demand came after the company said there were about 83 million fake user accounts and it planned to be more firm with such accounts. However, in February 2013, after a legal battle between the two, the court ruled in Facebook's favor.