Facebook Is Giving Suspended Users Two Weeks To Decide If They Want To Change Their Names Or Leave
Facebook met with a group of queer activists on Wednesday to discuss how its policy forcing members to use their legal name as printed on their driver’s license, credit card, or student ID discriminates against members of the LGBT community, and trans* people and drag queens in particular — and didn’t budge on the policy. Facebook will reinstate suspended accounts for two weeks, giving those members time to decide whether they want to change their names, convert their profiles to pages, or leave the platform, after which the company will begin to suspend accounts again.
Just a note: Converting your profile to a page makes the Facebook experience incredibly one-sided in terms of communication. Drag communities are tight-knit and full of close interpersonal bonds, partially because of shared life experiences, partially because of common interests, and partially because having a tight-knit community keeps oppressed people safe. Profiles foster those close, personal relationships better than pages. Besides, why should drag queens be forced to have a different Facebook experience than any other member of the community? And what about trans people who are going by their chosen names? Why should they be forced to treat themselves as if their chosen names are just stage names by electing to convert to a page?
This policy comes down hardest on the LGBT community, but it affects people who choose to go by different names on Facebook for other reasons too: Several of my street artist friends have had their accounts suspended. Using a legal name doesn’t make sense for someone who’s known solely by their public moniker, and it could put them in legal danger and make it harder to use Facebook for publicity for their art — which is the entire reason they’re on Facebook (and again, these people are participants in a community, not celebrities or even “public figures”). Then there are the women I know who have been stalked by both strangers and exes and had to change their names on Facebook so that they can continue to use it without their stalkers tracking them down.
The Daily Dot has posited the suggestion that Facebook could be doing this in order to get money — after all, if you have a page, your posts won’t show up in your friends’ feeds with the frequency they would if you had a profile, and in order to increase your visibility in your friends’ feeds, you’d have to pay for promoted posts, noting that a non-promoted post will only reach 16 percent of your followers. I don’t know. It seems a little conspiratorial, but then, it’s Facebook, a company that has demonstrated repeatedly that it cares more about its advertisers than its users. It could also be the fact that, like most tech companies, it has failed to foster diversity in the workplace. Considering their concern for user “safety” doesn’t take into account the reasons people don’t use their legal names, I have a hard time understanding why they’re taking such a hard line on the policy otherwise. Well, maybe it’s time to move everything over to Twitter and Ello.