Dana Lone Hill, a member of the Lakota people and one of many Native Americans whom Facebook shut out over erroneous reports of fake names, is to head up a class action lawsuit against Facebook over its “real name” policy.
Lone Hill’s story came to light earlier in February after she was forced to prove – multiple times – that her name was authentic.
That policy, which formerly required users to use only their “real name” for their profiles (it’s now the “authentic” name policy), last year faced an intense backlash from drag queens, drag kings, and others in the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community, some of whom it had locked out of their accounts because their account names weren’t “real.”
Facebook eventually restored Lone Hill’s account, just as, in October 2014, it restored the accounts of drag queens, amended its policy and apologised, owning up to a policy that ignored the importance of using pseudonyms online to protect people from harassment, violence and government action.
At the time of the LGBT apology, Facebook promised change. In the more recent case of Natives such as Lone Hill, it’s again assured us that change is coming.
But as The Guardian reports, change has been slow, and when it has come the aggrieved feel it’s been lacking.
One change that Facebook instituted was to augment identification options to include allowing documentation that shows a user’s “authentic name”.
This involves giving Facebook two forms of identification that include a legal name and one piece of government-issued identification with a photo or birthday that matches the user’s profile.
Facebook says it’s got more work to do to ensure that everyone can be their “authentic self” on the social network.
One piece of the puzzle has been to more or less deputise members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and members of San Francisco’s drag community, including Lil Miss Hot Mess.
Lil Miss Hot Mess has reportedly been forwarding 10 to 20 messages a day to Facebook as she works with the company to help users whose accounts have been reported and erroneously suspended.
Facebook has promised changes that would stop communities from being targeted and members from erroneously being reported, and to help people appeal cases after they’ve been unfairly or mistakenly reported, but, Lil Miss Hot Mess told The Guardian, those changes haven’t come yet.
The Guardian quotes her:
We're happy that Facebook is sort of taking small steps to make it more difficult for people to falsely accuse people of using fake names, but I still think there is this bigger issue of: do we have a right to choose our name on social media? And unfortunately even the move to the sort of authentic identity language hasn't really addressed that.
The class action lawsuit is being brought on behalf of Native Americans, Lone Hill told the newspaper, though she’s also in communication with the drag queen coalition.
Lone Hill doesn’t suspect racism, per se; rather, she thinks that names made up of adjectives and nouns tend to get flagged by Facebook’s enforcement system because of an anti-Native name slant that’s baked into its policy.
For example, the company explicitly prohibits using “words, phrases or nicknames in place of a middle name”.
That policy doesn’t make the names inauthentic, Lone Hill says. Nor does it mean that Facebook’s racist.
Regardless, something’s got to give.
The Guardian quotes Lone Hill:
I want to bring this lawsuit for Native America because these are our real names, these are the names that we were given, these were the names we were born with.
I'm not saying it's racism, I'm just saying they need to fix the system.
Image of Facebook courtesy of Gil C / Shutterstock.com.
10 comments on “Facebook to be sued by Native American over real-name policy”
Would Facebook be able to stop spammers from using real names that are on Facebook. There have been a number of times when I get a friend request from a ‘friend’ who is already on my friends list. These spammers were using my friends name to target other people. If I report the applicant as a spammer it could mean my real friends name will be removed
No, if you report the false account through the proper channels & give Facebook the URL of the REAL person (it asks you this), then the real person won’t get flagged as a spammer, only the duplicate fake account.
Facebook is a private entity and company. If they want to set up rules and policies it’s within their right. People don’t like it, don’t use their systems.
It may be that they are a private entity and company, but they provide a public service. And given that their revenue depends on the whims of said public, it is in their best interest to provide a social environment that caters to the customers they seek. Adopting an “it’s my party and I’ll do what I want” attitude will do nothing but force people away from Facebook and result in a decline in income…something any good Capitalist would find abhorrent.
After all, to Capitalists, profits are absolutley more important than people. The god of the American Capitalist is the almighty Dollar, and in that god they trust!
Any if you are a singer songwriter with copyrighted works and they lock you out of account and will refuse to remove your accounts off their services even after you decide to leave them completely . Facebook As the legal owner of my copyrighted works I want everything removed from facebook sites , services and or entities. I no longer deem you worthy of my creativity.
As much as I can’t stand many of Facebook’s policies, there is no “human right” to use a fake name on social media, privately-owned companies. The people who can’t get past Facebook’s fake name filter have a legitimate tech support issue–which it seems like Facebook is trying to rectify–so let’s not get our feelings hurt and make a federal case out of it.
Native Americans aren’t using fake names, Ellen. Their names are flagged as fake because they commonly include multiple English words (such as Lone Hill, who’s quoted in the article). The policy essentially makes it impossible for many Native Americans to be on Facebook because it automatically determines their names are fake.
Now work on Google(plus circles)
The basic problem with Facebook’s “authentic name” policy is that name are made up to begin with. Different cultures use different conventions for this, and it is legitimately discriminatory for Facebook to not acknowledge all of those (even if they didn’t mean it to be). No top of that you have very good reasons why people decide that the name they were given as a baby is not an accurate reflection of who they are later in life. There are some very good reasons why people may not want it in official record that they changed their name. Just seems weird to carve in stone that which is arbitrary to begin with.
I am about 4 generations removed from my Choctaw relatives, can I get my name added to this suit? FB changed my name, after which I have offered them overwhelming proof of my name. (Which was the name that existed before Facebook changed it). I waited the days needed to change it back, only to find out they Locked me out of changing it permanently.