Update, 10/1/14: Progress! Facebook has apologized to our community and has agreed to work with us to create meaningful solutions.
We had a very productive meeting with Facebook today (October. 1) in which they apologized for the way this situation has been handled, and they committed to making changes to the way they enforce their ‘real names’ policy to ensure that folks who need to use chosen names that reflect their authentic selves online are able to do so. We are excited to work in good faith with Facebook to address all the concerns raised in today’s meeting. What was made clear today is that Facebook is ready to collaborate with our communities and shares our value of making sure everyone is able to safely be their authentic self online. We applaud the many staff at Facebook who advocated tirelessly for this progress.
Below is the letter outlining our recommendations that we delivered at the meeting.
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We, the undersigned, represent a diverse coalition of artists, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, activists, transgender people, and others who have a sincere need to be able to use our chosen names on our Facebook profiles.
We share Facebook’s desire to build community, create authentic connections, and celebrate diversity. We applaud Facebook for its strong internal non-discrimination policies and its evolving policies that ensure people of all genders are able to express themselves on their profiles. Now, we request that another Facebook policy evolve to ensure all of us are able to be our authentic selves online.
Facebook’s requirement that users provide a form of identification to prove their “real names” is unfair and disproportionately impacts our already vulnerable communities. This policy lends itself to abuse; some people are using this tool to target and harass our communities with the intent of erasing our identities.
Many people need to use a chosen name in order to feel safe or to be able to express their authentic identity online. While drag queens have experienced a rash of reports of being in violation of the “real name” policy, many others remain at risk of being reported.
- Transgender people are often unable to legally change their names. Requiring them to show identification that may not accurately reflect their gender identity can result in humiliation. Worse, requiring them to display a name that doesn’t reflect their gender identity can subject them to violence and harassment.
- Performers of all kinds may need their stage names to be the one that is public facing.
- Immigrants may have trouble producing identification documents, or some people may use Anglicized names in their everyday lives.
- People from communities around the world may use a pseudonym to avoid persecution.
- Domestic violence survivors often use chosen names as a layer of safety for peace of mind.
- People of faith sometimes use religiously based names that do not match their legal name.
- Teachers, therapists, social workers, judges, and many others have personal reasons for needing to use a chosen name on Facebook.
In order to protect and celebrate all of our communities, we are united in our ask that Facebook:
- publicly commit to fixing the policy to ensure we can all be our authentic selves online;
- end the requirement for people to show forms of identification; and
- establish clear and easy procedures for users to appeal account suspension.
Facebook’s “real name” policy also raises serious free speech concerns. All people should feel safe using their preferred identity when speaking, online or off, and the US and California constitutions guarantee the right to speak anonymously or with a pseudonym. We encourage Facebook to take our society’s free speech traditions into account when reexamining its name policy and its mechanisms for hearing user appeals related to speech.
Thank you for your continued engagement with our communities. We look forward to celebrating Facebook’s revised policies soon.
National Center for Lesbian RIghts
National Lawyers Guild
Transgender Law Center
ACLU of Northern California
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
|AIDS Legal Referral Panel|
|African American Office of Gay Concerns|
|Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition|
|Bay Area Bisexual Network|
|Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center|
|Bro-Lesque – Philadelphia
Canvas for a Cause
|Cin City Burlesque|
|Columbus Burlesque Collective|
|Community United Against Violence CUAV
|Disabled Students Association|
|Equality New Mexico|
|Gateway Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence|
|Gender Exploration Society, Tulane|
|Gender Health Center|
|Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ (GRAANJ)|
|Global San Francisco|
|Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club|
|Horizons Young Professionals for Equality (HYPE)|
|Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire|
|LGBT CENTER SF|
|Louisiana Trans Advocates|
|Louisiana Trans Advocates|
|New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)|
|New York City Anti-Violence Project|
|Queer Oral History Project|
|SF Imperial CourtSan Francisco LGBTQ Speakers Bureau|
|Seattle LGBT Commission|
|Social Outreach Seattle|
|Somos Familia Valle|
|Southerners On New Ground|
|St. James Infirmary|
|SWOP – Bay Area|
|Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition|
|Texans United for Families|
|Transgender San Francisco (TGSF)|
|Trans March, TDoR|
|Trans Youth Equality Foundation|
|Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico|
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