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Facebook will update, but not scrap, its ‘real name’ policy

By Micah Sulit

Facebook has announced a couple of updates to its ‘real name’ policy, a controversial rule that users employ their “authentic identities” on the site, with a confirmation process requiring IDs if their accounts are flagged.

According to Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice-president of growth, the social networking site will now let users explain their name and provide “more information about their circumstances” when confirming their accounts.

“This should help our Community Operations team better understand the situation,” Schultz said in a letter published on Scribd. “It will also help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.”


Users will also be required to provide more information when they report violations of the ‘real name’ policy – an additional step that Facebook hopes will deter trolls from flagging profiles unnecessarily.

These changes and Schultz’s letter were in response to an open letter from around 75 organisations, including advocacy groups supporting digital rights, human rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. The signatories also include individual journalists and activists.

In the letter, the groups called on Facebook “to provide equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook as a central platform for online expression and communication”.

The ‘real name’ policy has sparked a lot of backlash from the LGBT community, among other sectors. Transgender users who have tried changing their names to reflect their new genders have found themselves locked out of their accounts, as have LGBT activists and community figures in countries where homosexuality is a crime.

Last year, Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox apologised to affected drag artists and LGBT users after an individual reported hundreds of accounts as fake, resulting in several suspensions.

Schultz said Facebook is retaining the real-name policy, arguing that it helps create a safer experience for users. “When people use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say, making it more difficult to hide behind an anonymous name to harass, bully, spam or scam someone else,” he said.”

The newly announced changes are scheduled to take effect in December.