In the wake of criticism that Facebook’s “real name” policy is too restrictive, the social media giant is making some changes to its policy to support users with legitimate reasons to remain anonymous.
Currently, Facebook requires that people use their birth name on the social networking site but that policy has been criticized by a variety of groups including Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for hindering access to the platform for those who wanted to hide their identities or use aliases, such as victims of domestic abuse and transgender people
In a statement today, Facebook acknowledged some of its users’ concerns but stressed that it remains committed to the real name requirement.
“On Facebook, we require people to use the name their friends and family know them by. When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they say. It also makes it harder for bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behavior,” Facebook said in a statement.
“However, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognize that it’s also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalized or face discrimination.”
As of today, the company is making its policy more inclusive to support people who are using an alias for legitimate reasons, rather than to anonymously bully or threaten others. Specifically, the new system makes it easier for people to explain why they are reporting a fake name. It also offers people the option of outlining their special circumstances–such as whether they’re a victim of abuse, transgender, or an ethnic minority–when verifying their name. But Facebook does note that it may still ask these users for some form of identification.
In addition, when a user is reported for allegedly having a fake name, they will still have seven days to access their profile to dispute the accusation or to explain the rationale for their anonymity. In the past, Facebook would have immediately suspended the account.
The social networking company is currently testing these product updates in the U.S. before rolling them out internationally. Facebook acknowledged that it still has plenty of work to do to alleviate people’s concerns about its real name policy. Next on the agenda is a system that will reduce the number of people who are required to go through the ID verification process.
“We want to create the best experience that we can for everyone, and we will continue to make improvements until everyone can use the name that their friends and family know them by,” said Facebook’s vice president of global operations Justin Osofsky and its product manager Todd Gage in a statement.
The company did respond to these concerns earlier this year by introducing minor tweaks such as the option to add context and details to a case.