Recently SFist ran two stories about Facebook users who reported outrage at that company's "real names policy" — really a policy of disabling accounts when they're reported by other users as fake.
The first was true! That was the story of an engineer named Isis whose account was locked down by the social network.
"Phuc Dat Bich," however, was a goddamn fraud, complaining to news media that Facebook's real name's policy had targeted him when in fact his name is way tamer than "Phuc Dat Bich" and it was actually a stupid and detrimental prank.
Well, perhaps making it easier to differentiate between those two scenarios, Facebook is making major changes to the way it enforces its real name policy. The Verge writes that those changes, toward which the company gestured in October, are now available to all US users. Facebook, however, says it is only testing them with certain users for the moment.
Under the new system, to report a user, another user must specify that the name they're reporting is that of an impostor, a fictional character, or is something somehow otherwise false or unexpected.
Next, users who have had their names reported will be notified and given a week to select and describe a "special circumstance." Those are preselected but there's room for a write-in, as pictured above. Facebook has also reportedly added a devoted support team for this process.
As a Facebook representative wrote in a post to you-know-where dot com, " We’re firmly committed to this policy, and it is not changing. However, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognize that it’s also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalized or face discrimination."
The move seems, at least superficially, aligned to the demands of groups like San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a drag troup who led the charge against the strict policy when several of their members' accounts were targeted and repeatedly disabled. "All people should feel safe using their preferred identity when speaking, online or off," CNET recalls the group's a letter to the company last year. While some might argue that Facebook can only mirror the real world — where that isn't always the case — isn't it possible that the network might help lead the way, at least with small steps?