The all mighty social giant has announced plans to change its controversial “real names” policy, after extensive lobbying from civil liberties groups across the globe. While changes are already implemented, the new rules still officially require the use of “authentic names”, something which has previously resulted in criticism from varied groups. Facebook does not require the use of “legal names”, however it does demand that users identify with the name that other people know them by. Enforcement of that rule hasn’t been easy, and the company was struggling to distinguish between real but unusual / fake names, and other identifiers which breach their policy.

As of today Facebook is making two major changes to its enforcement of the rule, in hopes that it will result in fewer vulnerable individuals who get caught in the net, while still allowing it to detect users who simply make up a fake name. Facebook will now allow users to “provide information about their circumstances” in order to “give additional details or context on their unique situation”. Alex Schultz,  the company’s VP of growth, says that this should allow Facebook to accurately conclude whether the name given by the user fits with the rules. Additionally, Alex says: “It will help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.” Facebook will require that users who have flagged others for using fake/funny names also provide more context with their report. Falsely flagging users for using a fake name has become a popular tool of harassment, since Facebook often suspends profiles which it believes are breaching the real name policy. Getting it unsuspended again is almost next to impossible, since facebook’s response times are at an all time low.

More from facebook’s official statement:

“A new version of the profile reporting process that requires people to provide additional information will improve the current system. This will help our teams better understand why someone is reporting a profile, giving them more information about the specific situation.”

Mr. Schultz outlined the changes in a letter responding to requests from various groups such as EFF, Human Rights Watch, ACLU and others to provide “equal treatment and protection for all who use and depend on Facebook as a central platform for online expression and communication”.

But other aspects of the privacy groups requests were rejected by Facebook. One request was for users to be able to confirm their identities without submitting government ID, which till this day causes a huge controversy. The groups suggested “allowing users to submit written evidence, answer multiple-choice questions, or provide alternative documentation such as links to blogposts or other online platforms where they use the same identity”.

Schultz’s response was to point out that Facebook no longer requires exclusively government-issued IDs to verify identities (this is debatable, as I have been myself requested to verify my identity for no valid reason). Instead, he said, “people can confirm their name with many forms of non-legal identification, including things like utility bills, a bank statement, a piece of mail, a library card, a school ID card or a magazine subscription label”.

While this is an improvement, there is still a long road ahead for creating a better user experience without breaching ones privacy. On behalf of FanPageCash.org we would like to thank EFF, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU for actively fighting for our rights!