Facebook released a statement on Tuesday revealing changes to their controversial “Real Name” policy. The policy has had a significantly negative impact on Facebook’s queer users, and came under fire in 2014 when Sister Roma, a well-known San Francisco drag personality, was forced to change her profile to reflect her given name.
“On Facebook, we require people to use the name their friends and family know them by,” the new statement reads. “When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they say. It also makes it harder for bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behavior.”
In order to make the social network a safe space for everyone, Facebook has released a new version of the name reporting process that requires additional context as to why the claim is being made.
“The good news is that reported names have to go through a much more rigorous review,” Sister Roma shared about the new process. “They’ve even hired a full-time employee to work on the authentic name policy, and that’s huge… The bad news is that the new process has only been given to 1% of Facebook users.”
Facebook currently has 1.55 billion users, so approximately 15.5 million users should now be able to see the new process.
Prior the the new process update, Sister Roma met with a working group at Facebook to review the changes. “It’s not a final solution, it’s not perfect, but Facebook is moving as quickly as they can,” she shared. “It takes a lot of time to make changes at such a big company. We’re going to continue to review.”
The fight isn’t over, especially for the thousands of people who have been effected by the out-dated policy. “I’d like to get a way for people to get their names back,” Roma commented on this issue. “That’s the next step for me.”
The goal of this new process is to make it more difficult for people to have their authentic names taken away from them. If a Facebook user’s name is reported, that user will now be able to explain their special circumstances for using that name. The report will then be submitted to a real human, not a computer, for review. This is definitely a step in the right direction.
“I’ve been here since the beginning,” Roma remarked. “I’m going to stick with it until all users have the right to self-identify.”