Facebook will be changing its controversial “real names” policy. Many people opposed the naming rule, but Facebook faced particular backlash from transgender people and domestic violence victim support groups.
Up to now, the social network giant has banned anonymity, insisting people use their birth names on their accounts. The policy has been opposed for many years by groups and individuals who believe people should be allowed to use different names for safety and privacy reasons.
In a written statement, Facebook says it remains “firmly committed” to having names that can be verified, “however, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognize that it’s also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalized or face discrimination.”
The new policy relaxes some rules on how members verify their names, how people report fake names, and streamlines the name verification process. Facebook's product manager Todd Gage says the new policy will be tested in the U.S. so that developers can determine how to best to expand the system globally.
“We will also continue to work on making the experience itself more compassionate and easier to navigate,” says Gage.
The new policy will ask people who are reporting users having fake names to give more information about why they are filing the report. Many times, people will file a report about a person’s name for malicious reasons.
Users whose profiles are flagged through the new reporting process will be given options to explain why they have allegedly used a fake name, including: “affected by abuse, stalking or bullying” and “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer”. Instead of immediately having their accounts suspended, these users will have seven days to access their profile while disputing the challenge.
Previously Facebook could change users names without their consent; under the new policy they can’t.