Seeking Truce With Drag Community, Facebook Will Amend Its 'Real-Name' Policy

After hundreds of accounts were suspended for the use of drag names like Sister Roma and Lil Miss Hot Mess, Facebook said it was rethinking certain policies.

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By Geoff Weiss • Oct 2, 2014

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Facebook is looking to make good with the San Francisco drag community after certain accounts were barred by the social network for the use of drag names like Sister Roma and Lil Miss Hot Mess.

The enforcement of a policy demanding that users go by their "authentic names" is being rethought, said Facebook's chief product officer, Chris Cox, in an apologetic status update yesterday that offered little detail in terms of forthcoming policy changes.

Cox explained that the "real-name" policy was only ever implemented to ensure user safety, as a majority of "fake" accounts are created to impersonate, bully, troll and scam other Facebookers. (Though possessing personal data is also vital to Facebook's business model, notes The Wall Street Journal, so that the site can deploy highly-targeted ads.)

In the past, when dubious accounts were flagged, Facebook's procedure was to demand a valid form of ID -- a fact that ultimately left hundreds of drag performers in the lurch, and subsequently catalyzed the viral rise of Ello, a social media startup eschewing ads and data collection purporting to be the anti-Facebook.

Related: Why Ello Suddenly Went Viral

"We see through this event that there's lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who's real and who's not, and the customer service for anyone who's affected," said Cox, whose apology arrived after weeks of consternation and protests by the LGBT community.

Cox also said that Facebook will maintain its real-name policy -- but that "the spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess."

The backlash ultimately culminated in a sitdown meeting yesterday morning between the affected drag queens, LGBT activists and Facebook executives. "I sincerely believe that Facebook hears our concerns," wrote Sister Roma (whose account now reads Michael Harris), "but this is not over."

"We must continue to work with them until everyone, not just drag queens and the LGBT community, has the right to use their chosen, protective and authentic identities."

Related: An Unlikely Icon: With 'Drag Race,' RuPaul Rounds Another Victory Lap

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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