Facebook have pushed ahead with the enforcement of their ‘real name’ policy, which requires users to use their real, or ‘authentic’ name.
This comes after a previous attempt stalled, following an uproar from the community which forced Facebook to give a rare apology.
Here’s the gist of the requirements:
Sounds fair enough on the surface of it, and gives enough room for interpretation to allow aliases or nicknames – precisely what appeased the criticisms from last time. However, the practical implementation seems quite different.
Again, these additional requirements don’t seem too restrictive. If anything, they seem fairly flexible, whilst retaining some sort of continuity. However, the practical implementation has been completely different.
Today, there have been reports that users have been locked out of their accounts, after Facebook has deemed their names to not be ‘authentic’ enough. This included a determination that the name ‘Daz’ (a common offshoot of Darren) was not acceptable, and ‘Nikki’ should be changed to ‘Nicola’ – despite the insistence that shortened nicknames (like ‘Bob’ in the case of Robert) are fine.
Now comes the kicker. In order to get back into your account, you either need to provide a ‘real’ name, or some sort of ‘acceptable identification’ to prove that you are known by the name or alias you had beforehand.
Let’s take a look at what the acceptable forms of identification are, according to Facebook:
Uhm, sorry… what? Despite their warning that you should be sure to blank out any other personal information, there is no reason in hell that anybody should ever be giving copies of the above documents to Facebook. The idea that this would ever be requested is completely ridiculous. If Facebook demanded I send a copy of my passport – redacted or otherwise – then they would be politely told where to shove it.
But hey! Should you not wish to share such an important piece of sensitive ID with a social network based in a different country, you have another option. You can provide two bits of ID from the following list:
This just becomes more ludicrous. Here’s why:
- There is no way for Facebook to verify any of the above properly.
- All of this ‘evidence’ can easily be doctored by any muppet.
- Even if you are known by a certain name in your everyday life, you won’t have that alias on official documents that require your legal name. In which case, how on earth are you meant to prove the existence of a nickname?
- WTF is a ‘permit’ anyway?
There are plenty of reasons why people would legitimately want to avoid using their full, legal name online (those in teaching, or the health service, or…); those who have already lost the ability to remain hidden in searches thanks to previous changes, with the process to use a nickname or alias instead verging on the impossible. But there’s something far more fundamental here: That it’s absolutely fuck all to do with Facebook what name you choose to go by. Making determinations about what is and isn’t ‘authentic’ is evidence of an organisation that has no concern for its users other than its own commercial interests.
We need to find a better way to communicate than this by using this lot.