Facebook is currently facing a lawsuit brought on by a Native American activist opposing the social media site’s “Real Name Policy.” The policy states that all Facebook users must use a real name when opening up or running a Facebook account. The site got into trouble with the activist, Dana Lone Hill, when she changed her last name from her mother’s maiden name of ‘Lone Hill’ to her her father’s last name of ‘Lone Elk.’
After changing her name, Facebook admins locked her out of her Facebook page based on the assumption that ‘Lone Elk’ wasn’t her real name. The site administrators were wrong. Lone Elk is, indeed, a real Native American last name, and many other Native American last names are similar.
This prompted the activist to sue Facebook for not allow her true name. When she gained press over the matter, Facebook did reinstate her account, but she’s told press that her goal now is to change the policy for good, so that other Native American Facebook users don’t face the same issue.
Not An Isolated Case
While the lawsuit was started by a Native American activist, the problem with Facebook’s ‘Real Name Policy’ is that a lot of people do not have typical names. Further, some are asking the company the logical question: what’s a “real name?” Names around the world vary dramatically according to culture, religion, and location. Attempting to determine who does and doesn’t have a real name while using the social site is something of an impossible thing to do.
When the Facebook policy first arrived on the scene, the company caught a lot of flack from various Drag Queens across the states that argued the policy. Many of these performers have stage names, and they wanted to use those names on Facebook as well, but the company shut down many pages after some names were created based on the same “this is not a real name” policy.
Searching for Fake Names
Facebook doesn’t want to let the general public know how the company finds and blocks names that are supposedly not real. But, it has been learned that Facebook admins do not actively search for fake names. Instead, users can report names that seem fake, and the social media company then looks into these claims. This, however, is a problematic policy.
Groups that want to target and single out other groups often report fake accounts, even if those accounts are not fake at all. This often happens with political activists and other groups that generate competition. Further, the Facebook policy isolates survivors of abuse that do not want to use their real names.
Activists like Dana Lone Elk want Facebook to change the policy. Lone Elk has told press that she does not think the company is singling out people according as a means of discrimination, but that the policy needs to be changed, so that anyone can use Facebook - even if that person does not have a conventional name. So far, the policy remains.