A coalition of drag queens, burlesque performers, Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, and LGBTQ people traveled to Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters today to protest the corporation's “fake name” policy. The #MyNameIs coalition says that Facebook's policy of requiring people to use its service under their “legal” name is discriminatory and that the social network's process for allowing users to report “fake names” is rife with abuse.
The current* campaign to pressure Facebook to change its policy was spearheaded by last fall, when drag queens who used their performance names for their profiles had their accounts deleted, apparently due to a concerted effort by homophobic trolls to get them kicked off the network. Other groups have also spoken up to say that there are good reasons for people to use non-“legal” names. For example, trans* users might want to use their chosen names instead of their birth names, and domestic abuse survivors might want to use a false name to avoid cyber-stalking by abusers. Many Native American Facebook users have also reported being targeted for deletion over their names, and one Native American activist has filed a class action lawsuit over the name policy.
“This dangerous and discriminatory policy is yet another indication that Facebook is out of touch with the majority of its users, especially those who fall outside of the company’s employee demographics that are predominantly straight, white, and male,” says protest organizer Lil Miss Hot Mess. “Whether you use Facebook or not, this fight is about the future of digital culture, including everyone’s right to maintain privacy and express their truest selves.”
The #MyNameIs campaign was dealt a blow last week when the SF Pride Board of Directors voted not to bar Facebook from sponsoring and marching in this year's Pride parade.
*UPDATE: The current, drag-queen-led campaign on Facebook began last fall, but others have been speaking out about “real name” policies and online anonymity for years. In 2011, activists including Skud, Eva Galperin, Jillian C. York, and other launched the website MyNameIsMe.org to call for social networks like Facebook and Google+ to allow “users to identify themselves by whatever name they choose, providing that the name they choose is not, in and of itself, abusive.” The site includes resources and personal stories about the importance of online anonymity for many marginalized groups.
Rival social network Ello provided protesters with a bus from San Francisco to Menlo Park.
Supervisor David Campos took part in the protest.
San Francisco Examiner and SF Weekly reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez attended the protest. Check out his reports from the ongoing protest on Twitter, and below.