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Facebook and the Drag Name Controversy

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Posted (edited)

Some of you may have been reading in the press recently about the controversy over Facebook not budging over its policy on requiring people to use their birth names on their profiles. If you're not aware of the news, the social media giant has started deleting the accounts of hundreds of members of the drag community after deciding these profiles were in violation of their policy. This has obviously angered many drag queens, who have recently met with Facebook to get them to change their position.

Now, as someone currently suffering from a recent account deactivation and subsequent battle to get it reactivated (not because I'm a drag artist and there's nothing wrong with that!), I can say that having no account is beyond inconvenient. Not only because I live abroad and need to stay in touch with my family and friends, but I also use it for work - like many drag artists do.

The drag community believes their stage names are their real names and that they shouldn't be forced to go by their birth names, after all it's a social media site, not a government organisation. Part of the issue is that a lot of drag artists make a living from their performances and rely on Facebook to publicise their gigs, but Facebook say that these users should use a fan page. However, fan pages operate differently to personal pages namely that you have to pay to reach your audience with ads.

Other important factors are that political activists have argued that people could face danger if their real identities are revealed. Many LGBT Facebook users fear using their real names including threats to their safety and employment. "Abused women, bullied teens, transgender people...(there are) a million different people with a million different reasons to use fake names," said Sister Roma from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

So my question is, what's the real deal here? If you read the details, Facebook wants your real name as it appears on your credit card, driver's license or student ID. Is this information required to provide better targeting for advertisers or a genuine move to ensure a more secure environment to stop cyber-bullying and online hate? (so believes Chris Wolf, the national chair of the Anti-Defamation League's Civil Rights Committee in the US).

Facebook state on their website that it is a 'community where people use their real identities'. They 'require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe." The argument is that the policy actually undermines the online communities drag artists have built up over the past several years by using their stage names.

While I understand the reasons behind Facebook's thinking as trolls can make people's lives a living nightmare, but it isn't consistent. Lots of names sound false but are indeed real. How does Facebook intend to prove this? for example, gather proof of identity from everyone? You see where this is heading?

Personally, I've signed the petition to allow people to use whatever name they wish. Right now I'm not convinced that this policy will lead to a better experience and that it's ill thought through, we are not a one-size-fits-all society.

Let me know what you think.

Here's some more on the subject:

International Business Times
NBC Bay Area (Video)

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Edited by MarkBryant

I use a fake name to hide from my ex. A friend of mine uses a fake name because he doesn't want his family to know he is gay. Hopefully facebook will rethink this policy.

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