Mighty Facebook says sorry to drag queens, gays, transgender for lockouts

Facebook has backed down from crackdown on accounts without real names in a policy battle with a community covering drag queens, gays and transgenders.

The social media network company’s product chief Christopher Cox’s says in the two weeks that its real name policy issue has surfaced, the company has had a chance to hear more views and understand how it has affected the people in this community.

The background: San Francisco drag queen Sister Roma led the charge against Facebook’s decision to lock hundreds of accounts in recent weeks on the basis the accounts were created using fake names.

Sister Roma, whose real name is Michael Williams, wrote in a Facebook post (Sep 18) following a meeting with Facebook representatives and Facebook LGBT employees “The meeting left me feeling a bit hopeful.” A protest rally had been planned at the San Francisco City Hall but has now been changed to a victory celebration.

Cox’s post says: “I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.” LGBT refers to a loosely defined group of lesbians, gays, transgender, among others.

We are after the baddies

He says it was unfortunate how the event unfolded saying a user had reported several hundreds of accounts as fake.

“These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99% of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn't notice the pattern. “

He says Facebook then asked these flagged account owners to verify their authenticity by way of some identity proof such as gym membership, library card, or a piece of mail. “We've had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it's done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.”

He adds the company’s policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name.

“The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what's been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.”

He maintains however the company stands by its policy requiring people to use real names. “First, it's part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it's the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm.”

Cox says Facebook was “already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world,” and adds the company would provide more “deliberate customer service” to people who are flagged.

Full post by Cox 

The campaign by the community affected