Facebook has an inconsistently enforced policy of requiring people to use their real names on their Facebook accounts, even if doing so would put them in danger. For LGBTI Facebook users in anti-gay countries, public exposure often can lead to violence, prosecution and/or imprisonment. Facebook doesn’t admit this, but sometimes it acts as though it knows it.
Here are two examples of problems caused by the Facebook policy:
Junior (June) Mayema left the Democratic Republic of Congo to flee from homophobia and transphobia, but now that he’s in the United States, Facebook forces him to use a legal name that he dislikes and that leaves him exposed to potential harassment.
- Ethiopian activist HappyAddis, who runs some of the most popular online groups for gay Ethiopians, including 1000-member Zega Matters, had his Facebook account blocked because he was not using his legal name. After many people protested, Facebook restored his account yesterday, apparently without explanation.
Here are those two activists’ stories:
Facebook forced me to use a name that’s not really me
By Junior (June) Mayema
On Facebook, we have to go through mental agonies when our gender goes beyond male and female. The reason I am so angry with the transphobic Facebook team is because I was forced to use my real name there.
Everybody knows me by my new sexy name, June, but Facebook forced me to change it to a name that doesn’t identify me as a gender non-conforming person.
Also, people now can easily track me since I have a California ID and my identification as male.
When I was in Africa, it was not a big issue with me calling myself June on Facebook.
But then I left Africa because of transphobia and homophobia. I was granted refugee status, but now I can’t identify myself as a gender non-conforming person. This is a huge infringement of my right to privacy in the USA.
I’m not alone in this.
Facebook’s headquarter is here in San Francisco. This is a serious issue that LGBT activists continue to ignore and condone. It’s time to tell Facebook to stop this now. This is an attack on human rights.
On Facebook, his current name is “Junior Nsamia Mayema (June N. Equality Blessing).”
Ethiopian LGBT Activist Banned by Facebook Under Real Name Policy
Facebook does not allow the use of fake names, even when pseudonyms are necessary to shield their owners from violence
By Jacob Davidson
An Ethiopian LGBT activist and leader who runs multiple Facebook groups for gay Ethiopians has had his account blocked by Facebook for not using his real name.
The activist, who goes by the pseudonym HappyAddis, used the social network to create and administrate some of the most popular groups for gay Ethiopians, including Zega Matters, which has more than 1,000 members. The East African country considers homosexuality a crime and those convicted of same-sex relations can face 15 years in prison. For that reason, many LGBT citizens use an alias to interact with others online in order to avoid punishment from the authorities and anti-gay violence.
On [July 10], HappyAddis discovered his account had been blocked due to a Facebook policy that requires users to go by their real names on the site. The activist says he was told to upload documents confirming his pseudonym was his legal name or he would not be able to use the site. It appears as though anti-gay Facebook users may have reported HappyAddis’s account as a false name in order to make Facebook take it offline.
This is not the first time Facebook’s real name policy has affected more vulnerable members of the company’s user base. Multiple groups, including LGBT users, Native Americans, and transgender individuals, have had their accounts blocked for having names that don’t conform to traditional standards. …
UPDATE—July 16: HappyAddis reports his account has been restored.
Thanks, Facebook; now change your policy
Thank you @Facebook for restoring my account. Thanks to everyone who helped get it back. For LGBT Ethiopians and other marginalized groups, social media is a life line, a window to escape a harsh world.
I hope Facebook takes this into account and make accommodation for us in its real identity policy. If the world was a different place, at least our side of it, we would have used our legal names but till then, we are forced to use aliases.We shall not stay always in the shadows. Working for change to come, for tolerance, acceptance and compassion, we remain optimistic together.
I received tremendous support and cooperation from people near and far. Your efforts give us hope that things will get better.
Thank you all!
- Ethiopian LGBT Activist Banned by Facebook Under Real Name Policy (time.com)
- Facebook bans, then reinstates account of journalist who didn’t use real name (siliconbeat.com)
- Shame on Facebook: How Zuckerberg’s Confusing “Real Names” Policy Hurts More Than It Helps (Huffington Post)
- What names are allowed on Facebook? (Facebook policy)