When Facebook changed their name policy to eliminate users who use fake names on their profile, they did it to stop those who create profiles to bully and harass other users. In other words, it was for a good reason, but the policy did less to stop bullying and more to inadvertently target and profile users who are trans and whose legal names do not reflect their identity, users who are using pseudonyms to avoid stalkers and abusers, and users whose legal names do not fit Facebook’s arbitrary standards of “real names,” such as Native Americans, and other ethnic minorities. However, after tons of complaints about the biased nature of the system, Facebook is doing some work to change it.
Soon, users will be able to provide context to explain their name choices, as well as give people who are reporting violations of the rule space to explain their reasoning. This change is coming in the wake of a viral open letter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted earlier this month, that called on Facebook to “fix its broken ‘authentic identity’ policy,” finding “Facebook’s name policies to be culturally biased and technically flawed,” and demanding that “Facebook provide equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook for online expression and communication.”
Facebook’s creation of an “explanation form” is a solution to a somewhat inconsistent and subjective system. The Verge posits that a more effective method of rooting out online bullies would be to monitor their behavior and use of the website over time, rather than targeting names that are unfamiliar to their watchdogs.
Facebook’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz, explained that they “want to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their name on Facebook, when they are already using the name people know them by. We want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary.”
This is a small but crucial step for the safety of users on Facebook, both in the face of harassment and for their own personal identity. These new changes are set to roll out in December. This year, for the holidays, Facebook is giving everyone the gift of more inclusivity.