After the intense #MyNameIs backlash about the way Facebook's real names policy disproportionately impacted the LGBT community, which included a brief mass exodus to social media platform Ello, Facebook met with a contingent led by Sister Roma, a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and publicly apologized to the LGBT community via a statement from the company's chief product officer's personal Facebook, which read in part, "Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life."
The Huffington Post reports that Sister Roma met with Facebook again on March 5 to discuss what, if anything, has progressed since the original meeting in October 2014. In an email sent to The Huffington Post she writes:
Basically the #MyNameIs team has been reduced to a test market group, suggesting modifications and options to their customer service department.Facebook has responded with another pleasant, feel-good corporate doublespeak statement, and why not? It worked for them last time, when the media and the LGBT community took them at their word and moved on, despite the fact the policy is still in place and accounts are still getting pulled.
The bottom line is that Facebook refuses to budge on their real name policy. Calling it "authentic identity" is no different as long as they demand I.D. from users to prove their name. All of their concessions are mere smoke screens to the bigger issue. They believe that they are making the user experience a better one. They believe that these small modifications will cut down in the number of malicious targeted reports based on "fake names." They are wrong.
This week there has been a upsurge in malicious reporting. Hundreds of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence [members], entire drag communities, burlesque performers and other users around the world are reporting that their accounts have been disabled because they are using a "fake" name... Mark Zuckerberg has created an Internet monster that is bigger than he is or any of us.
Meanwhile, I'm completing my third day of a 72 hour Facebook jail sentence due to an organized effort get my profile pulled in advance of the summer release of my book, Delusions of Grandeur, by a group reporting my updates to see if Facebook will bite. There is no policy against targeting a person or a group with malicious reporting, which is how the whole names controversy began in the first place. Facebook’s Chris Cox said in the company’s apology that one individual had reported hundreds of the accounts as fake. Nobody is more revered and influential in the world of Facebook than the tattler.
Of course Facebook interference with speech and expression goes far beyond names. They have waffled on allowing beheading videos, while banning images of nursing mothers.
In a column for The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that in trying to find balance between allowing some types of free expression and retaining key parts of its user base including parents and kids older than 13, Facebook has ended up making confusing business decisions:
"The simplest, most logically consistent position would be one of absolute free speech, in which Facebook would allow everything within the law. Beheading videos would take their place alongside porn in a great, unfettered free-for-all... The lunacy of allowing beheadings while banning nursing mothers would be bad enough. But Facebook has tied itself up in further knots of illogic by explaining that such snuff videos are OK if they are posted to "condemn" the killing rather than glorify it. But that distinction is not always so obvious. A bit of lip-service condemnation would not be hard to construct for someone whose motive was altogether less benign."
Shaun Hides, head of the Department of Media at Coventry University, called Facebook policies "laughably inconsistent" in a column for CNN. But for now, it's Facebook that's laughing at how easily movements like #MyNameIs can be derailed.