In late 2014, social networking site Facebook vowed to ease its 'real names' policy after publicly apologizing to quell a simmering dispute over its enforcement of the policy. The site has now modified the 'real names' policy once protested by drag performers, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, abuse victims and others.
New tools being tested in the United States were designed to reduce the number of people asked to verify their names at Facebook and make it easier for them to do so when needed. Facebook executives and representatives of the LGBT communities collaborated on a solution deemed acceptable to both sides, allowing people to use assumed names subject to verification.
‘Facebook has now modified the 'real names' policy once protested by drag performers, the LGBT community, abuse victims and others. This will allow people to use assumed names subject to verification.’
But, Facebook made clear that it is not backing off from its policy that people at the social network should use names that friends and family know them by, and not those intended to hide who they really are.
In an online post, product manager Todd Gage and vice president of global operations Justin Osofsky said, "When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they 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 behavior."
Drag performers, many of whom got word late last year that their accounts using stage names were at risk, sparked a high-profile protest that was joined by activists, domestic-violence victims and others who want to avoid having real names on social-network profiles.
The list of people understandably interested in using assumed names at Facebook goes far beyond drag entertainers to encompass judges, social workers, teachers, entertainers, abuse victims and others, according to activists. In the past, people could get an account suspended by simply tagging a name as fake at the social network.
Those reporting suspected fake names to Facebook must now provide more information, such as the reason for their concern.
The online post said, "We're also testing a new tool that will let people provide more information about their circumstances if they are asked to verify their name. People can let us know they have a special circumstance, and then give us more information about their unique situation."
Gage and Osofsky said that teams at Facebook use the additional information for context while reviewing reports of names being fake.
Other changes made by Facebook during the past year include expanding options for verifying names and letting people keep access to social-network accounts while going through the process.
Gage and Osofsky said, "Early in the new year, we will be looking at other ways we can reduce the number of people who have to go through an ID verification experience, while preserving the safety of other people on the site."