Facebook has a real name policy. You might not even have been aware of that. Most of us tick the little box that says you accept all terms and conditions without the slightest clue just what those terms and conditions are. Usually, if there’s a policy that insists on your real name, you’d expect to be asked for proof when you sign up. But you’re not. You can sign up with whatever real-sounding name you like. It’s later that this can become an issue.
Real Name Policy of Facebook
First of all, the real name policy is enforced by people who are familiar with Western ways of naming. Names from many cultures don’t sound very real to them. If your name has a meaning in the dictionary and it’s not a typical Western name like, say, Stone (Stone Cold Steve Austin is his real name, right?), you could have your account suspended.
Problem of Caste Based Names
Many people want to get rid of their names for important reasons, like caste. Facebook doesn’t seem to understand the problem with caste-based names. Many of us have caste-based surnames that we don’t wish to acknowledge. That should be our right – if somebody who has suffered from caste-ism all their life decides that they will no longer bear their caste as part of their name, why should Facebook decide that their birth certificate is more important? They might drop the caste-based name and use an initial instead, in all avenues of life, and in that case, they should be able to do so on Facebook, too.
Pseudo Names For Safety
Some people choose pseudonyms for safety. Oh, we have free speech (or as many call it, freeze peach), in theory, but how many of us would really say what we thought and put our name to that opinion? Especially when you might end up facing sedition charges, like those two girls who got charged for a Facebook status.
Retribution might not be from the authorities, too. To take just one example, most feminists get all kinds of threats (and unsavoury offers) in their inboxes. True, they’re internet threats, but with your real name, they could find out more, even if no other information is accessible to them because you’ve turned privacy settings up to ‘paranoid’. Anybody with an opinion that’s opposed by a few violent people could find themselves in that predicament.
So the Internet is full of people who don’t use their real names but want their voices heard anyway. On Facebook, that sometimes means Indian feminists who don’t use their real names because they find online harassment quite bad enough without getting offline forms, as well, because of their opinions.
Repercussions of Pseudo Names
But this has become an excellent way to silence these people. Mass reporting of these people who use pseudonyms ends up in their accounts being suspended. If anybody uses their ‘middle name’ option to express support for their cause, it could end up being reported as a fake name and so their voice on one very popular platform is silenced.
Currently, there is one campaign, ‘For A Better FB’, taking place, trying to get Facebook to acknowledge the complexities of this situation. But information is currency for Facebook. Will they place decency above profit?
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