Sister Roma, one of the key figures behind the campaign against Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy

Sister Roma, one of the key figures behind the campaign against Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy

Facebook has apologised for its heavy-handed approach and agreed to allow drag performers to continue using their drag names on their profiles.

The company was slammed after it recently began suspending profiles of artists and performers who use their drag or stage names on the site.

On Wednesday, Facebook Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, posted an update on the battle between the social media giant and the performers who’ve campaign against its “real name” policy.

“I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, 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,” said Cox.

He revealed that the recent drama began when a (presumably homophobic) individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. Facebook never noticed the pattern and started dealing with the reports as it would the usual complaints against harmful fake profiles.

“Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name,” explained Cox. “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. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.

“In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we’ve had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it. We’ve also come to understand how painful this has been. We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we’re going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were,” he said.

Cox announced that Facebook was planning on finding new ways for it to allow people to use a name different from their legal name while still being able to verify their identity.

“…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. These have not worked flawlessly and we need to fix that. With this input, we’re already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors,” said Cox.

Drag performer Sister Roma, who’s been behind the campaign against Facebook’s recent actions, welcomed the news.

“I sincerely believe that Facebook hears our concerns and I know that they have been working diligently to explore ways to modify their policies and procedures globally to create an authentic and safe environment for all users.”

Roma added that, “this is not over,” explaining that, “While most of the actions promised by Facebook will affect users worldwide, 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.”

Campaigners have argued that the way Facebook has implemented its real name policy could affect not only performers but also anyone who needs to hide their identity for legitimate reasons, including closeted gays and lesbians and survivors of domestic abuse and stalking who fear being harmed.

Today’s planned protest by drag performers against Facebook at the San Francisco City Hall will go ahead but will now be a celebration of the company’s change in policy.

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