The social network will change its ‘real name’ policy which allowed users to be reported for not using their ‘authentic’ names.
Authentic in this sense means how they’re known by friends and family, according VP of growth for Facebook, Alex Schultz.
‘We are deeply invested in making [this policy] better,’ Schultz wrote.
‘I’ve seen first hand how people – including LGBT people – can be bullied online by people using fake or impersonating accounts.’
There are two main changes to the policy, which were announced on Friday.
First, users will be able to provide details on why they’ve chosen a certain name for their account.
‘This should help our Community Operations team better understand the situation,’ Schultz said, in case they are reported.
Second, people who flag a name as fake will have to provide additional details. It’s hoped this will prevent people from flagging profiles flippantly, or trolling; as has often been the case with transgender people.
Users will also be able to get back into their locked accounts more easily.
‘I’ve walked with our head of Community Operations at Pride in San Francisco, and heard the feedback from the LGBT and other communities that our policy and tools aren’t enabling people to be their authentic selves on Facebook,’ Schultz wrote.
‘We also understand the challenges for many transgender people when it comes to formally changing one’s name.
‘That’s why we’re making changes now and in the future, and will continue to engage with you and all who are committed to looking after the most vulnerable people using our product.’
But the policy won’t be totally scrapped. Schultz has argued the ‘authentic identity’ policy reduces trolling by making people accountable for their actions online.
‘When people use the name others know them by, they are more accountable for what they say, making it more difficult to hide behind an anonymous name to harass, bully, spam or scam someone else,’ he said.
On the 5th of October a group of organizations and individuals, including EFF and ACLU, penned an open letter to Facebook.
They write it ‘[should] provide equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook as central platform for online expression and communication’, listing vulnerable groups as ‘transgender and gender variant’ as well as Native Americans and those who use a pseudonym.
Schultz wrote in his reply: ‘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,’ he said.