Many in the drag-queen community are up in arms over a Facebook requirement that user accounts must be operated under “real names”.
The performers say Facebook has forced them to use their legal names if they want to continue to access and use their accounts.
A San Francisco drag queen, Sister Roma, said in a Facebook post the policy was “unfair, hurtful, discriminatory and an invasion of privacy”. As a result of the policy Sister Roma’s account is now under her legal name, which had previously been largely unknown to fans and friends.
The tech giant’s policy is resurrecting controversial questions about privacy on Facebook, as some observers argue that such “real-name” policies can be harmful to groups such as victims of abuse or activists.
Facebook’s name policy says a profile name “should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s licence or student ID”. It also says that forcing people to use their real identities helps keep the social network safe.
“If people want to use an alternative name on Facebook, they have several different options available to them, including providing an alias under their name on their profile, or creating a page specifically for that alternative persona,” Facebook said in an email sent to the Guardian.
“As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile.”
Performers, however, say that along with using their stage names for privacy reasons, their personal Facebook pages are not commercial enterprises.
“We are not businesses selling products, we are encouraging our friends to come to our events and performances, promoting charitable causes, and making calls to political action, with occasional mundane daily life updates like every other Facebook user,” a Seattle-based performer, Olivia LaGarce, wrote in a petition.
More than 6,800 people have signed the petition, which accuses Facebook of pulling a “bait and switch”.
The crackdown on profile names follows a much-heralded policy change made in February, which allowed users to customise their gender and suggested 50 terms people may want to use, including “intersex”, “other” and “gender fluid”.
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