There are a couple of groups no one should ever tangle with online: Mommy Bloggers and Drag Queens. But, Facebook just can’t seem to help themselves in their latest fight with the latter group.
Apparently, the social networking site has been threatening to shut down the profiles of drag queens until they use their legal names on their profiles.
The ruckus began when Sister Roma, a widely known LGBT personality and member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was targeted by Facebook on Wednesday for having her stage name, rather than her legal one, appear on her personal Facebook profile.
“I was automatically logged out and told my account was suspended because it appears that I’m not using my real name. I was instructed to log in and forced to change the name on my profile to my “legal name, like the one that appears on your drivers’ license or credit card.'”
Until Roma conformed to the site’s demands by adjusting the page to reflect her legal name, Michael Williams, her account was suspended. Having been on the site as Sister Roma since 2008, this was the first time she had ever been prompted to change her name.
Sister Roma, and others like her, say they should be allowed to use their stage names not only because that is how they identify themselves publicly and professionally, but also because of the hurt associated with their “legal names.”
In support of Roma, a female impersonator/performer named Jayd wrote on Twitter:
“The name I was born with is the name of a victim, a lonely little boy who hated himself. That is NOT who I am.”
IS THIS REALLY JUST ABOUT THE BENJAMINS?
Sister Roma has also suggested that Facebook is doing this because they want to drive public personas to use the Fan Pages instead of personal profiles. Fan Pages require a monetary investment for updates to be seen by their following.
Others have pointed out that there are plenty of fake names on Facebook and the social networking site doesn’t seem to mind.
DO FAKE NAMES MAKE PEOPLE MORE SAFE ONLINE?
Facebook claims this new policy is a part of their attempts to keep the site safe. And, they have been cracking down on profiles with fake names.
And, yet, safety may be one of the main reasons people choose to use fake names on Facebook. Some people want to engage in social networking, but they may also be trying to avoid dangerous people in their lives.
And, we’ve seen plenty of stories of people being fired because of something they said on the site and even teachers being fired for posting a photo of themselves enjoying a cocktail while on vacation.
IS THIS SIMPLY ABOUT DATA MINING?
And, still others say this has nothing to do with keeping people safe and everything to do with data mining. After all, if Facebook is able to sell your legal name along with all the personal information they collect, you are much more valuable.
IS FACEBOOK A NECESSARY UTILITY OR STILL A FUN TOOL?
You might say that Facebook has the right to demand this. After all, the site is still free to use and you don’t *have* to have a FB profile.
But, there is a growing movement to make Facebook a utility, much like the telephone, and therefore should be regulated.
S. Shyam Sundar, a director of the Media Effects Research Lab at Pennsylvania State University, said:
“Facebook has become a utility, like a phone carrier. People go to Facebook to document the major events in their lives, and connect with others, not unlike a public, community scrapbook.”
Even the site’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg has compared it to other utilities:
“Maybe electricity was cool when it first came out, but pretty quickly people stopped talking about it because it’s not the new thing, the real question you want to track at that point is are fewer people turning on their lights because it’s less cool?”
And, in a TIME Magazine article from 2005, Zuckerberg flat out called it a utility:
“Mark said that he has not conceived the Facebook as a social network – which is a community application, it is a directory that he considers a utility that students use in order to find information which is socially relevant.”
Certainly, one could argue that if you are looking for a new job and your prospective employer sees you don’t have a Facebook page, they would find that suspect. But, the more the site demands people use their real names, the more they are seeing an exodus of privacy-minded users.
And, there is always the right for freedom of expression, which should allow someone to create whatever persona they want on a social networking site.
As we’ve seen, the coming Generation Z is very concerned about their online privacy and tend to prefer sites and apps that allow them to engage anonymously. If Facebook continues to push users to use their legal names, one must ask will this mark the end of Facebook entirely?