Facebook is testing ways to improve its “real names” policy and how users on the social network can confirm their names.
Changes in the identification process should begin becoming operational in December, said Facebook exec Alex Schultz in a letter sent to organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In the letter, originally obtained by BuzzFeed, Schultz said that “we want to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their name on Facebook, when they are already using the name people know them by … (and) we want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary.”
He noted that Facebook users currently do not have to use their real names, but must use the name that they use in real-life. The ACLU and EFF and many others have asked Facebook to change their identity requirements because some users — including domestic abuse victims and those in the LGBT community — may face harassment if forced to use their legal name.
This isn’t a new issue facing Facebook. Last fall, the #MyNameIs campaign was created by users who had their accounts shut down; they included Native Americans who used tribal names that are different than those on government-issued IDs and women who are survivors of domestic violence. Some of those users participated in a protest at Facebook headquarters in June.
Facebook’s current process, Schultz said in his letter “does not work for everyone.” But the network’s requirement to have users go by the name others know them by holds them accountable for their actions online, he said.
Those looking to confirm their identity — without government-issued IDs, for instance — will now have space to explain their situation to Facebook, his letter says. And, those looking to report users who they say are using an improper identity are being asked for evidence as to why they are making the report.
“It’s a balance to get this right — we want to find a line that minimizes bullying but maximises the potential for people to be their authentic selves on Facebook,” Schultz said.
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