Members of the #MyNameIs campaign—a coalition of LGBTQ people, Native Americans, survivors of domestic violence, and others whose accounts have been reported and blocked on Facebook—are pleased that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally responded publicly to questions about Facebook’s “real names” policy in a Townhall Q&A held on the social media platform. However, the coalition is disappointed by Facebook’s ongoing commitment to this dangerous and discriminatory policy, and the company’s lack of action to stop users from being maliciously reported. Members of the coalition have released the following statements:
Facebook hasn’t backed up its claims that the policy is necessary.
● “Despite Zuckerberg’s statement, Facebook hasn’t provided any hard data or evidence that its policy protects anyone. In fact, the policy is actually very poorly designed for that purpose. The #MyNameIs campaign has heard from thousands of people around the world, many with harrowing stories of being contacted by stalkers and former abusers, of being outed to homophobic family members or transphobic coworkers, or otherwise living in fear when they’ve been forced to use their legal name on Facebook. And that’s only that small slice of people who have reached out to a group of drag queens, artists, and activists in San Francisco. We know that this policy also affects international human rights activists, domestic violence survivors, and more, across the globe.” Nadia Kayyali, Electronic Frontier Foundation staff activist.
Facebook’s policies blame victims and do not offer users full control over their privacy.
● “As a domestic abuse survivor, I am appalled that Mark Zuckerberg puts the responsibility on the victim to track and block their attacker rather than choose a name that makes them feel safe yet still be able to engage with their community. He’s right: it’s incredibly easy to type someone’s name and find you, even if you don’t want to be found. Facebook’s privacy settings require that all users’ names and profile pictures are visible, which puts millions of women and others at risk. I am disappointed that after all these months, he has not reached out to our group and clearly doesn’t get it.” Trisha Fogleman, domestic violence advocate.
Facebook should target bad behavior, not users’ identities.
● “What Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t acknowledge is that it’s actually very easy for people to create fake accounts to harass others: all you have to do is use a ‘normal’ sounding name like Joe Smith and you’re not likely to be reported. But it’s also fairly easy to report users for doing bad things like stalking you, harassing you, spamming you, or impersonating someone else. The real problem is that Facebook too often doesn’t take action on harassing behavior like unsolicited nude photos or hate speech. Rather than punishing people whose identities fall outside the mainstream, it should finetune its own reporting tools and better train its enforcement team.” BeBe Sweetbriar, drag queen and former SF Pride Grand Marshall.
Facebook’s “real names” policy enables cyberbullying.
● “Zuckerberg is so off base and out of touch! The reality is that it’s too easy to report someone’s account just because you don’t like who they are. Is Facebook trying to discriminate against LGBTQ people, people of color, Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, or any of the countless other groups that are affected by this? Probably not. But the reality is that it’s not people’s pets that are reported, its people who are already targeted by hate and violence. There are a lot of ‘shoulds’ in Zuckerberg’s statement, but Facebook sure isn’t acting fast enough to prevent this type of bullying. Will the real Mark Zuckerberg please stand up and make a real change?” Alex U. Inn, drag king and engineer.
Facebook’s acceptable forms of ID are unrealistic and unnecessary.
● “Even with the small changes Facebook has made since we started protesting, it’s still near impossible to ‘prove’ your identity to Facebook if and when you’re reported. How many transgender youth does Zuckerberg think have a bank statement or utility bill with their authentic name? How many domestic violence survivors take out a magazine subscription under their private name? When does a library card ever a photo on it? And why should only some of us have to fork over these documents in the first place? If Facebook wants its users to be their true selves, they need to build better ways to let friends say ‘this person is who they say they are,’ not rely on a piece of paper, government or otherwise.” Lil Miss Hot Mess, drag queen.
Facebook’s policy is confusing and is not evenly enforced.
● “I’ve been saying all along that the #MyNameIs coalition is not trying to break the rules. We are trying to get Facebook to abide by its own policy. As it stands they demand legal proof of identification, which is a complete contradiction to Zuckerberg’s canned response. It’s time to stop badgering users for ID and relying on us to tell Facebook who we are. Our friends can find us just fine.” Sister Roma, member of the drag organization the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
● “There is no doubt in our mind that this policy directly discriminates against and impacts members of the LGBT and drag community, as well as survivors of violence, undocumented immigrants, teachers, doctors, and others who are transitioning identities or are in need of privacy for a myriad of social, professional, or personal reasons. If Facebook is willing to throw some communities of users under the bus like this, it begs the questions: Who will be next? And what will the reason be? And should we stand for it?” Peter Gallotta, copresident of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
Zuckerberg’s answer is a nonresponse: he doesn’t address the real issues.
● “Ultimately, Zuckerberg’s most recent statement is so confusing and convoluted that one wonders if this is some sort of strategy Facebook’s legal team is employing, while trying to best determine a future course of action. From his statement it is difficult to discern what is really going on.” Samuel White Swan Perkins, cultural consultant and Native American activist.
● “All you have to do is look at the thousands of stories compiled on the mynameiscampaign.org website to see that Zuckerburg is trying to pacify and confuse the public. The ability to use a real chosen name is simply not there and it’s coming to light. This policy remains harmful and flawed.” Dottie Lux, burlesque performer.
Photos from Sunday’s protest at the SF Pride parade are available in this Google Drive: http://bit.ly/mynameisjune28. They are free to use with proper attribution (see folder or file name).
Hi Mark, you made a tool to let everyone put rainbow flags over their profile pictures, but you also insist on having people use their real names on Facebook. Many people in the trans community consider this discriminatory and even argue it puts their lives at risk. Are you going to end the practice?
Mark Zuckerberg’s response:
This is an important question. Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.
First, it helps keep people safe. We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively towards other members of our community when they’re using their real names. There are plenty of cases for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent exhusband where preventing the exhusband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important. As long as he’s using his real name, she can easily block him.
Second, real names help make the service easier to use. People use Facebook to look up friends and people they meet all the time. This is easy because you can just type their name into search and find them. This becomes much harder if people don’t use their real names.
That said, there is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community. We are working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.