Drag Queens Face Off with Facebook’s Policy on Real Names

by Jennifer Perez

Following the outrage that erupted when Facebook deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, the social media site has announced that it is changing its real name policy.

In September, drag queens in San Francisco and a city lawmaker met with representatives from Facebook in an attempt to negotiate a removal of the policy that prevents users from using false names on their profiles.

The drag queens claimed that they use their stage names in order to get gigs and protect their identities. The false names protect them from stalkers and prevent employers from finding, and possibly, firing them. Family members and friends who don’t know about their lifestyles couldn’t find out through Facebook either.

“I have been Heklina for 20 years, and I have Facebook telling me Heklina does not exist. So they’re basically wiping you out of existence,” said a performer at a San Francisco conference.

However, this change of policy didn’t only affect drag queens- victims of abuse, bullied teens, closeted members of the LGBT community, and others have reasons to conceal their identities on Facebook.

The social networking site claims that its policy holds people more accountable for what they post and encourages better behavior. Facebook said it can also reduce online bullying and hate. The policy is flawed in that people with names that don’t sound real have had their accounts suspended as well.

Privacy and digital rights activists believe that Facebook has another motive for its real name policy: to track behavior and personal data in order to send targeted advertisements to the 1.32 billion users of the site.

Although Facebook initially said it would not budge on the policy and that it would not be removed, hundreds of profiles were recently restored to give the account owners two weeks to change their names or make the pages fan pages.

An apology was issued in early October by Christopher Cox, Facebook’s product chief, stating that users could go back to using their assumed names on the social media site.

The decision prevents protests that were planned to take place in front of the San Francisco City Hall; instead of a protest there will now be a victory rally.

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