Facebook’s real-name policy is once again embroiling the company in controversy.
This time it’s because the service has been telling Native Americans that their names run afoul of the policy and locking their accounts until they provide three forms of identification.
Critics have pointed out that it’s easier for the Left Shark from Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance to get a Facebook page than it is for Native Americans to use their given names.
A similar controversy unfolded a few months ago when Facebook prevented members of the LGBTQ community from using their chosen names instead of their given names on its site.
At the time, I argued that the biggest problem with Facebook’s policy is that it focuses too much on users’ legal names and not enough on the identities they’ve chosen for themselves:
The backlash against this policy shows just how foolish a “real name” requirement for joining a social network really is. Besides its supposed commitment to discourage bullying and its need to give advertisers as much data as possible, Facebook has no reason to require that its users go by the name on their driver’s license instead of the one with which they’ve identified for years.
Facebook later apologized for the episode, with chief product officer Chris Cox writing that “the spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life,” regardless of whether or not that name is what’s printed on their birth certificates.
Yet now the company is giving Native Americans flack over names that are on their legal documents and with which they identify in everyday life. It’s hard to see how that meshes with Cox’s apology, and once again makes it seem like the real-name policy is a bad idea.