Facebook apologises to LGBT community over 'real name' policy

The social network giant has pledged to find a solution that doesn’t hurt those with legitimate reasons for using pseudonyms

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The Independent Tech

Facebook has issued an apology to the LGBT victims of its “real-name” policy, and has said the company will resolve the problems with its push for identity verification.

Facebook said they now require people to use “the authentic name they use in real life,” following weeks of sustained pressure by gay rights activists.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said: "I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbours, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.

Under the old rules, that required users to register with their legal name, hundreds of Facebook accounts were flagged by just a single user, and many were suspended, including that of San Francisco drag queen Sister Roma – legal name Michael Williams.

Sister Roma has lead the charge against the “real name” policy, penning an open letter that explained how it disproportionately impacts LGBT communities. That letter was delivered just hours before Facebook made its announcement.

The letter read: “This policy lends itself to abuse; some people are using this tool to target and harass our communities with the intent of erasing our identities.

“Many people need to use a chosen name in order to feel safe or to be able to express their authentic identity online.”

Facebook said it did not realise drag queens and transgendered people were being targeted, because of the vast number of fake name accounts that were being flagged.

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Cox said that the company will continue to develop an authentic name policy to crackdown on imposters, as well as curbing anonymous trolling.

He said: "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.

"We're already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors."

Google+ abolished its real name policy in June.