Facebook’s Chief Product Office, Chris Cox, issued a formal apology to members of the LGBT community who were affected by the recent issues involving Facebook’s real name policy. Over the past couple of weeks, several instances took place where individuals were maliciously reporting members of the LGBT community for not using their real names.
As a result of Facebook’s reporting mechanism, the users who were reported were given a notice that they had to change their name. This is a problem, as it’s not uncommon for drag queens, drag kings, and transgendered individuals to go by names other than the one they were given at birth.
Cox clarified that the spirit of Facebook’s real name policy is for everyone to use the name that they go by in real life, the intention was never for everyone to go by their legal name.
Facebook will be working on better tools to verify the identities of individuals reporting other users for using fake names. They will also be making efforts to improve customer service in order to prevent an abrupt abandonment of Facebook accounts, such as the one that was triggered by Facebook’s real name policy.
Up until this point, Facebook’s policy has required everyone using the service to identify themselves by the same name that appeared on a piece of government-issued ID.
Cox states that the company believes their policy is the right one for Facebook for two reasons. It’s what differentiated Facebook at a time when anonymity was the social norm, and the company believes its their primary mechanism for protecting its millions of users every day.
Where Facebook wants to improve its policy is in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms. Cox says Facebook needs to fix the tools for understanding who’s real and who’s not when submitting reports, and they need to improve the customer service for those wrongly affected by false reports
“These have not worked flawlessly and we need to fix that,” Cox admits. “With this input, we’re already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors. And we’re taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way.”