Users around the world are becoming increasingly disgruntled with Facebook, the privacy-invading social network that is increasingly placing the internet, and social lives, in a strangle hold.
A group that feels marginalized by Facebook's 'real name policy' has had enough of the company's cavalier attitude towards users and plans to lead a demonstration outside Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters on Monday.
Facebook is violently opposed to anonymous users and will suspended accounts when people do not use their officially recognized names. The policy has incited Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, political activists, transgender people, drag queens and others who do not use the names on their birth certificates to rally together against the policy as part of the #MyNameIs coalition.
To see just how damaging Facebook's policy is, check out our story about an Israeli website doxing student activists in the hopes it prevents them from getting a job after graduation. Facebook makes it trivial to commit such damaging acts, which inflict real world harm on individuals forced to use their real name.
To make matters worse on Facebook, any user can report that another user is using a false identity. This policy leads to a mob mentality, where users are targeted by mobs who oppose their identity and behavior. “Facebook sides with those bullies,” said Sister Roma, one of the leaders of the effort to change the policy.
Such actions amount to digital hate crimes yet Facebook has so far escaped any public accountability for facilitating the cyber lynch mobs.
Victimized drag queens challenged the privacy invader last September after several received emails telling them that they must change their profiles to their “real names”, a blatant disregard for their gender identity.
Facebook subsequently apologized yet then proceeded to do nothing to address the concerns during protracted talks. While it responded rapidly to the negative publicity it seems more intent on making bad news go away rather than address the underlying concerns, which harm real people.
“Having people use their authentic names makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech,” the company said in a statement.
Yet those policies in fact encourage hateful actions by having groups look to ban groups of users they disagree with. Such bans effectively cancel the social lives of vulnerable members of the community who may rely on online social connections more than average users.
There have also been numerous academic studies that show forcing users to adopt real names stifles honest speech online, due to the permanent record it attaches to a user. This chilling effect means that real identities stifle free speech and honest discussion.
“Facebook is no longer a cool website started by a bunch of guys who want to chat each other and see chicks, and see who they are talking to,” said Sister Roma. “It’s changed – and it’s time for Facebook’s policies and original ideas to change, because users’ identities are as fluid as users themselves today.”
The protest will begin at 11am, across the street from Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.
Demonstrators want the company to remove the fake-name reporting option, stop verifying people with government issued identification, and develop a clear appeals process.