In a surprising move, Facebook announced Tuesdaythat it’s changing the way users report so-called”fake names.”
Explaining the change, Facebook’s Justin Osofsky and Todd Gage said in statement that the platform is “introducing a new version of the names reporting process that requires people to provide additional information about why they are reporting a name.”
In other words, simply flagging a profile as suspicious isn’t enough; now, Facebook is asking for context.
Users “will be required to go through several new steps that provide us more specifics about the report,” Osofsky and Gage added. “This additional context will help our review teams better understand why someone is reporting a name.” And, if someone’s profile is reported, they’ll have an opportunity to explain the reason for the pseudonym.
“People can let us know they have a special circumstance,” Facebook explained, “and then give us more information about their unique situation.”
The policy change was hailed by LGBT advocacy groups nationwide.
“By taking important steps to improve its name policy, Facebook is once again demonstrating a strong commitment to inclusion and respect for LGBT users,”GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellissaid.
The move comes after a controversy that garnered national attentionlast year.
Writing for The Advocate, Dawn Ennis explained that, since Facebook requires so-called “real names” on its platforms, it deactivated hundreds of profiles in 2014.
“Most famously, a trans woman who goes by ‘Zip’ and helped Facebook expand its gender profiles – was blocked,” Ennis reported, “because the social media site deemed her name not ‘real’ enough.”
Critics of the policy citedmultiple similar reasons folks might use a “fake name.”
Likewise, earlier this year, theElectronic Frontier Foundation sent an open letter, dated Oct. 5,to Facebook executives opposing the naming policy on personal safety and privacy grounds.
The civil liberties advocacy group argued that the strict naming policy negatively impacted a slew of vulnerable groups, including transgender or gender variant people, political activists, and evenstalking victims.
Acknowledging those serious concerns, Facebook said in its statement on Tuesday that it wants its newnaming policies to work “for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalized or face discrimination.”