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UncategorizedFacebook still messing with drag queens

Facebook still messing with drag queens

Protest points to the continued failure of the “authentic names” policy

By Khaled Sayed

Protesters take their message to Silicon Valley
Protesters gather to take their message to Silicon Valley. Photo By Khaled Sayed

JUNE 2, 2015 — Facebook hasn’t stopped discriminating against people who use their drag names or other forms of legitimate aliases – and the coalition that demanded change was back Monday to protest at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

A crowd of a 100 people met at the Safeway parking lot at Church and Market, where two buses were waiting with a banner that said, “No real name required.” Despite the early gathering time, people were in great spirits and were ready to be part of the #MyNameIs Coalition protest.

Under Facebook’s “authentic names” process, reporting users who post under something other than their legal names can be used as a tool of bullying and harassment, protesters say. Facebook has a history of deleting any account that was reported as fake.

Drag queen and protest organizer Sister Roma argued that fake-name reporting punishes identity and not behavior:  “Facebook is allowing thousands, if not millions, of users to be maliciously targeted and reported simply for exercising their right to self-identify.”

While Facebook says its policy exists in part to prevent cyberbullying by anonymous posters, the protesters say they have received thousands of reports from blocked users, including many who believe that their accounts were reported by people with homophobic or misogynist intent. “These users have done nothing wrong,” Sister Roma said. “Facebook continues to condone the actions of bigots and bullies who continue to target other users simply because they don’t like who they are, the way they look, or what they stand for.”

Sister Roma expressing her disappointment about Facebook's real name   policy before the protesters outside of Facebook headquarters .Photo by Khaled Sayed
Sister Roma expressing her disappointment about Facebook’s real name policy before the protesters outside of Facebook headquarters .Photo by Khaled Sayed

The issue surfaced in the fall of 2014, and made headlines. Shortly thereafter, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, issued an apology and promised to make significant changes to the authentic name policy and its enforcement.

But it hasn’t happened.

Senator Mark Leno sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and the letter was read out loud before the crowd by Sister Roma. In the letter Senator Leno expressed his disappointment over Facebook’s policy enforcement.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos also spoke to the crowd. He stressed that the core of this campaign is respecting and protecting the identity that people choose for themselves, regardless to what is shown in a legal document. “A few months ago Facebook and this community met, and we thought we had an understanding. We thought we had a commitment from Facebook to change this policy. But we haven’t seen the changes that they promised us,” Campos said. “Now we want action, not words. We are tired of hearing the right thing from Facebook and yet nothing has happened.”

Dottie Lux, a burlesque performer and protest organizer, said Facebook’s apology was empty and insincere. “It’s clear that they wanted to brush this under the rug by restoring a few accounts and making a few minor tweaks,” according to Lux. “But since October, our group has heard from thousands of people around the world whose accounts have been reported and blocked.”

Drag queen and organizer Lil Miss Hot Mess believes the fake name reporting is dangerous and discriminatory policy. “It is yet another indication that Facebook is out of touch with the majority of its users,” Mess said. “Especially those who fall outside of the company’s employee demographics that are predominantly straight, white, and male. Whether you use Facebook or not, this fight is about the future of digital culture, including everyone’s right to maintain privacy and express their truest selves.”

The group argues that many users do not have government issued identification, credit cards, or a piece of paper that reflects their true authentic identity. They are calling on Facebook to find a better way to authenticate users. One option is that Facebook authenticate users based on their trusted contacts system, which already allows users to access accounts if they forget their passwords.

Not only LGBT people were at the protest, but Native Americans, survivors of domestic violence and other individuals said they had their accounts blocked or reported for using names other than their legal names.

The group’s website is here.

 

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  30. What I find odd is that Dolly Fine, the character in my historical novel, “Bordello Politique,” – San Francisco’s most notorious madame, still has a facebook page and even in the 1930s, when she had three apartment buildings full of long-term tenents/prostitutes in the uptown district in San Francisco, her name was already a pseudonym. But when she became notorious, the papers agreed to call her as Dolly.
    (Please F@$book, don’t delete Dolly’s page.)

  31. Wrong again, Tim. Facebook is free to set its own rules and those who don’t like them should find another site to use.

    In fact you have argued in the past that commentators here should use their real names.

  32. Well, no, actually: they have a very realistic view of their importance. A small percentage of their userbase is angry at them and making demands. They are ignoring that vocal minority with the understanding that it does not reflect the needs or wants of most of their users. The majority of Facebook users have no issue with using their legal names and, even if some of them find that annoying, the benefit they receive in return is at least useful enough to negate that for the moment. So Facebook has pretty good reason to be confident as they stand by their policies, I’d say.

  33. Except it’s not a public forum. It’s a private company. I know plenty of people who don’t have a FB page and they manage to live their lives just fine.

  34. Utterly moronic and ridiculous. Yeah, let’s allow the US government to regulate a PRIVATE company because a few drag queens can’t use their stage names (do they not know how to create a business page?).

    The government runs everything else so efficiently, what could possibly go wrong?

  35. Wrong, Tim. It’s a company, pure and simple. It is not now, nor has it ever been, a public utility or even an entity with an “obligation” to the public. Its obligations are to its shareholders. The fact that people consider themselves somewhat dependent on it is due entirely to Facebook’s clear success at inducing network effects. If their product sucked, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If you don’t like their policies, delete your account and don’t look back. It’s that simple.

  36. As FB us used in emergencies, times of war, for law enforcement, etc, it should be declared a public utility, or minimally, be somehow regulated.

  37. “I can’t believe a website I voluntarily signed up to use isn’t letting me do whatever the hell I want!”

    Christ, you’d think it’s some constitutionally guaranteed right to have a Facebook page exactly the way you want it.

    Don’t like the policy? Don’t use it. It’s pretty simple. I have plenty of friends who have deleted their FB accounts and they manage just fine.

  38. Facebook set policy, if some folks don’t like or agree with their policies don’t use Facebook.
    The purpose of using real names is to prevent cyber bullying, as real names can be traced.

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