Despite Meeting With LGBT Activists, Facebook Won’t Budge On Name Change Issue

The social media giant agreed to reinstate hundreds of accounts deleted due to its policy requiring users to display their legal names, but only temporarily.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

After a face-to-face meeting between Facebook and LGBT activists concerned with the company’s “real name” policy for users, there was little resolution Wednesday — but interest on both sides in continuing to discuss the concerns.

Activists said they remain angry with Facebook after leaving the hour-long meeting with only little progress, as the company refused to budge on changing its long-held policy requiring users to show their legal names on their personal profiles.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Facebook spokesperson Andrew Souvall said that despite the discussion with activists, the company will continue to emphasize the importance of requiring all users to display their “real names.”

“We had a good discussion with the group about their perspectives on our real name standard, and we stressed how the standard helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment,” Souvall said in the statement.

In recent days, activists have publicly challenged the policy, saying that it severely impacts people in the LGBT community who for one reason or another, choose not to use their given names. Drag queens said they were negatively impacted by the policy because using their legal names could isolate them on social media, seeing as they are widely known in their communities by their stage names or chosen names.

Activists have raised similar concerns for transgender users who could be at risk if they no longer identify with the names they were given at birth and use chosen names on their Facebook profiles. Many transgender people, especially transgender youth, may not be able to legally change their names and provide proof of the name they identity with if asked by Facebook. And for some transgender users, being outed by having to use their legal names could be dangerous, the activists said.

Shortly after the meeting, the activists made it clear they weren’t happy with Facebook’s unwillingness to adjust the policy to better serve LGBT users.

“We didn’t get the whole issue solved by any means,” said Sister Roma, a prominent drag queen performer and member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who attended the meeting. “Facebook refuses to to acknowledge there is a problem with the policy.”

However, according to Roma, the company acknowledged that many drag queens’ accounts and many others in the LGBT community were targeted with complaints made by other users, and for that reason, they were deleted.

“Now, we’re trying to get Facebook to realize there’s a problem with the way pages are reported and the way that those complaints are researched,” Roma said. “There’s a whole community of people that are being targeted and being bullied.”

Additionally, Facebook agreed to temporarily reinstate hundreds of profiles that were recently deleted due to complaints over discrepancies with names, but only for two weeks so that the affected users can decide whether or not they’d like to use their legal names.

“We’ve decided to temporarily reactivate the profiles of several hundred members of the LGBT community whose profiles were recently deactivated,” Souvall said in the statement. “This will give them a chance to decide how they’d like to represent themselves on Facebook. Over the next two weeks, we hope that they will decide to confirm their real name, change their name to their real name, or convert their profile to a Page.”

But activists like Roma question the point of reinstating the profiles temporarily.

“Basically they offered to give us our profiles back so that two weeks later they could suspend them, demand we comply to their unfair and discriminatory policy, and if not, take them away again,” Roma said in a statement posted to Facebook. “This is completely unacceptable.”

Both sides, though, agreed to meet again and continue discussing the issue.

“We look forward to continuing the conversation with the LGBT community, so that we can work to ensure they can continue to connect and engage on Facebook,” Souvall said.

As for the activists, Roma said, “Stay tuned. This is not over!”

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