In Response to Protests, Facebook Will Adapt "Real Name" Policy

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In response to protests, Facebook announced that it will test improvements of its “real name” policy and the processes by which users confirm their identities.

The real name policy states that users should post under names that are their “authentic identities,” or what they go by in real life. Nicknames and maiden names can also be used if listed as possible alternatives if listed in profile settings.

The policy has drawn criticism from the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who say that marginalized groups such as members of the LGBT community and Native Americans who may go by a chosen name rather than a legal name have been targeted by other uses on the site who have flagged others for falsely representing their identities. The policy is also an issue when considering victims of domestic abuse or other protected individuals who assume fake names as a matter of safety. These groups made their concerns known earlier last month in an open letter to Facebook  that stated:

It’s time for Facebook to provide equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook as a central platform for online expression and communication.

The protests also came in the form of the “MyNameIs” hashtag campaign, where users flooded social media sites with stories about the alternate names they’ve chosen and why.

A response letter from Alex Schultz, a VP of Growth at Facebook, described a few ways the company will seek to better protect its users:

First, we want to reduce the number of people who are askedto verify their name on Facebook, when they are already using the name people know them by.Second, we want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary.These improvements will take some time to test and implement, but a team is working on this and people should start seeing the tests in December.

This means, generally, that when users sign up on Facebook under a name that’s different than their legal one, they may be asked to provide context. Similarly, to combat harassment in the form of trolls over-reporting fake names, users who want to report someone for false identity must also provide context before Facebook will take action.

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As Ferguson protests spread, Twitter takes on a different tenor

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Most of the time, social media users can rely on Twitter for a few things: jokes, tweets from brands, and updates from celebrities.

Every once in a while, however, Twitter becomes something else, and anything but serious discussion of the topic of the moment is retweeted and criticized for being out of touch and too flippant.

That was the case Monday night, as emotions ran high after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Well before McCullough’s remarks were over—news outlets reported that Wilson would not be indicted several minutes before the prosecutor announced the decision—protests began in Ferguson and throughout the country. Twitter lit up with photos of those demonstrations, along with commentary about the decision.

“#Ferguson,” “Darren Wilson,” and “grand jury” were the top trending topics Monday night, and remained so Tuesday morning. For proof that the tone of Twitter changed, the comedy news website The Interrobang gathered a collection of markedly serious tweets from comedians about the decision.

Frivolous tweets or those that weren’t about what was happening in Ferguson—many of them from brands that probably had automated updates scheduled—were met with a common response: “Not now.”

There’s this one from Kohl’s, which was still up Tuesday morning:

Or this one from the Boston Red Sox, which was deleted:

Singer Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas earned some attention for a tweet that said he was having “the best night ever in a long time.”

He apologized:

Another example, involving a marketing firm, dealt with a tweet specifically referring to Ferguson:

NPR blogger Linda Holmes offered this advice to anyone who runs an organizational Twitter account:

It’s worth remembering next time news as big and as emotionally charged as Monday’s becomes the talk of Twitter. The messages you had planned can wait, and if you do choose to tweet, make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re saying.

 

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