“Real” Names

This post might come across as a bit ranty. I apologize in advance.

If you’ve been on Facebook–which probably most of you have–you’ve most likely heard about the “real name” issue. People who are not using their legal name, or a form of it, on Facebook are being banned or blocked from their accounts. I think Facebook started doing this to try to eliminate the problem of anonymous harassment, though I am not sure.

The problem is… It doesn’t work. I am reasonably certain that things like “Scumlord” don’t appear on anyone’s birth certificates, but I’ve seen someone using that name on Facebook. Meanwhile, someone with a name like Amber is being banned–because Amber is a chosen female name for a transgender woman who is afraid to use her legal, male name because her family doesn’t know she’s transgender.

Even when fear isn’t involved, it’s wrong, in my opinion, to force someone to use a name belonging to a gender with which they don’t identify. In the above example of Amber, it would be just as wrong for Facebook to ban her because she isn’t male and so doesn’t want to use a male name as it is for them to ban her for using a name to protect herself from her family.

There is not consistent enforcement of this rule. That’s the biggest issue with it. People with blatantly fake names are being allowed to use them, while people with names that are at least realistic, even if not their legal names, are being banned or otherwise penalized. I think in many cases the people who are being banned are having it happen because someone else has reported them; I know at least one person for whom that was the case. But if that’s Facebook’s basis for enforcing their rule, it is an unfair basis, since people will report someone they don’t like and not necessarily someone who’s causing problems by using a fake name.

There is no need for the rule to exist. It doesn’t prevent any type of abuse, and in some cases it *causes* abuse. If Facebook wants to set restrictions on certain words or phrases it doesn’t want people using in their names, that’s fine, but to arbitrarily say “You can only use your legal name” and then not have any fair and unbiased means of enforcing that rule is, in my opinion, wrong.