As reported on The Sword last year and earlier this year, NakedSword’s own Sister Roma is continuing the fight to get Facebook to pay attention to the plight of the LGBTQ community, as well as other communities who are negatively impacted by the way the site currently allows the policing of “real names.”
You may recall that last fall, a kerfuffle erupted on the internet after Roma and others were getting locked out of Facebook accounts for using their drag names and chosen names, instead of the ones they could prove on birth certificates. The policy, it’s been argued, is particularly discriminatory against the LGBTQ community where new identities are often embraced, and become primary.
Today, as a condition of SF Pride allowing Facebook employees into this year’s Pride parade, the company sat down again with what’s become known as the #MyNameIs coalition, including Roma and others from San Francisco. Below, Roma reports from the meeting, exclusively for The Sword.
Today’s meeting was informative and proves that Facebook is listening to #MyNameIs and the LGBTQI community with regard to our ability to self-identify on the site.
The changes that Facebook plans to roll out were documented in a public response from Alex Schultz ) in response to an open letter to Facebook submitted by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization that has worked closely with #MyNameIs since our inception.
As you may remember, #MyNameIs attempted to get Facebook banned from participating in SF Pride this year and we were almost successful the board was split down the middle. Today’s meeting was arranged by SF Pride as part of the contingency that Facebook agreed to when they were allowed to participate in Pride. A handful of LGBTQI representatives from #MyNameIs, The LGBT Center, Transgender Law Center, GLAAD, The Trevor Project and Pflag met with key executives and decision makers from Facebook to go over the proposed changes to the “fake” name reporting and appeals process.It was great to see that as a result of our very vocal concerns and protests, Facebook has hired a new full-time project manager responsible for addressing the problems that “fake” name reporting brings to our community. Facebook’s commitment to resolving some of our issues by dedicating full-time staff to the issue is encouraging and has already produced some tangible changes.
The most encouraging aspect of today’s meeting is that Facebook has acknowledged that many users use the “fake” name reporting button to maliciously target our community. They also have revealed that many users select the “fake” name option when they mean to actually report someone for bad behavior such as spam or bullying. Starting in December Facebook will roll out changes to the reporting process requiring more information from the person doing the reporting, including a required text field that will ask them to explain the motivation behind the report. It is Facebook’s hope that this will significantly reduce the number of malicious reporters who are using the “fake” name reporting option as a tool to bully marginalized communities.
Since we first met with Facebook they seem to have broadened their grasp on the concept of identity with relation to the LGBTQI and other affected communities. They acknowledge that identity is fluid and cannot always be proven with a piece of paper. As a result, when the changes roll out in December, someone who has been reported for using a “fake” name will have an opportunity to explain who they are. This will include options for LGBT, American Indian, Domestic Violence Surivor, etc. There will also be a text field for users to further share their stories of identity.
All of these new changes sound great but they are only as effective as the person who reads the comments and makes the decisions. To that note, Facebook has claimed they will provide sensitivity training to the customer service team responsible for reviewing the reports and the appeals. Facebook also admits that their current “auto-generated” responses are frustrating and hinted that they will replace them with actual people who will provide answers in “real talk.”
While much of this is very encouraging there is still work to be done. We will meet one more time before announcing a community forum in December where all members of the community will be invited to express their concerns, ask questions, and be shown the new changes.
I’m excited to continue to work on this project with my community and Facebook. It feels like maybe finally we are making progress! Stay tuned…