Facebook sorry for drag queen name ban

02/10/2014

Facebook has apologised for imposing a ban on fake names, a move that particularly affecting performers and drag queens, and has clarified that it will now allow ‘authentic’ names on the social network, even if they are not the user’s real name.

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Drag queens challenged Facebook in September after several received emails asking them to change their profile to their real names, or face having their accounts closed.

The move caused much public uproar, and was one of the key factors that helped new social network ‘Ello’ gain a huge number of new sign ups on the promise of a more open acceptance policy.

On Wednesday evening, Facebook's chief product officer Chris Cox apologised, saying the move was triggered by one Facebook user who reported several hundred accounts as fake.
Christopher Cox, Facebook's chief production officer, said several hundred accounts had been flagged by a user as fake.

He accepted that many people had endured a "painful" experience and said they will be able to use their stage names on Facebook.

In a post, he wrote: "I want to apologise to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbours, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks."

Referring to two drag queen critics, he added: "The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess."

He said the issue had shown up the fact that "there's lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who's real and who's not".
Facebook is trying to create a safe community, he said, adding that a policy of requiring authentic names is still a good idea.

He said: "The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it's both terrifying and sad.

"Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good."
Protest becomes celebration

Mark Snyder, a spokesman for the Transgender Law Center, told the AFP news agency that a planned street protest on Thursday in San Francisco would now become a celebration.

"It was very clear that Facebook was apologetic and wanted to find solutions so that all of us can be our authentic selves online" he said.

He added that it was not just drag queens who had legitimate reasons to use assumed names online.

Judges, social workers, teachers, entertainers and victims of abuse were all justified in using aliases, Snyder said.

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