Blog

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Facebook takes Important Steps to improve their ‘Authentic Name’ Policy

Earlier today, Facebook announced changes to its controversial ‘authentic name’ policy. The policy, which encourages users to use the name friends and family know them by on their profiles, has come under scrutiny in the past year from the LGBT community. Transgender people have raised concerns about the policy as a result of profiles of transgender individuals being reported for having “fake names,” and have objected to  the documentation that Facebook requires in order to prove their profile name is one that matches who they are. Trans people face significant barriers in obtaining documentation that accurately reflects who they are, and Facebook’s documentation requirement poses a significant burden for transgender users. Digital platforms such as Facebook are important forums where transgender people explore their identity, and being blocked from and questioned about such expression on social media is particularly harmful to our community.

With the hopes of addressing these concerns, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) joined Facebook’s LGBT Network of Support earier this year. The Network of Support is comprised of six LGBT organizations, including: Human Rights Campaign, Trevor Project, Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). These organizations advise Facebook on policies affecting LGBT users, everything from cyber bullying to the ‘authentic name’ policy. 

NCTE joined Facebook’s Network of Support with the hopes of making Facebook a safer and more inclusive platform for trans people, who often rely on social media platforms like Facebook to both explore their identity and connect with others in a safe and accepting space. We applaud Facebook for taking steps to improve their ‘authentic names’ policy. Under the new reporting procedure, far fewer users will be notified that they need to show proof of the name they use in daily life. Additionally, when users are notified that they have been reported for using a “fake name,” the new procedure allows individuals to report that they have a special circumstance, such as their LGBT identity, which helps Facebook administrators understand why they may have been reported.

While these steps are an improvement to the existing policy, it’s imperative that we continue to strive to make the ‘authentic names’ policy fully supportive of the trans community. NCTE will continue to work with Facebook to improve the policy to the point where we feel confident that no transgender individual will be asked to provide proof of who they are on this platform. We have full confidence that Facebook is invested in being a safe and accessible place for trans people, and look forward to continuing this important work. 

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