Mark Zuckerberg: Transgender people shouldn’t be banned for using their names on Facebook

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has claimed there is “confusion” about his website’s ‘real name’ policy – which has been used to ban drag artists and transgender people.

Facebook banned hundreds of drag artists from the website last summer for not using their legal names on their profiles – which was later revealed to be the work of one user submitting a vast number of malicious reports.

The company promised to alter its ‘real name’ policy to allow trans people and drag artists to use their chosen names if they prefer – but no changes were ever made, and people still face bans.

In a cruel ironic twist this month, a trans woman who used to work for Facebook and helped develop their inclusive gender options has been banned from the site for violating the ‘real name’ policy.

Mr Zuckerberg was asked about the policy in a Q&A on the website.

Facebook user Alex Kantrowitz asked him: “Hi Mark, you made a tool to let everyone put rainbow flags over their profile pictures, but you also insist on having people use their real names on Facebook.

“Many people in the trans community consider this discriminatory and even argue it puts their lives at risk. Are you going to end the practice?”

The tech billionaire replied:

This is an important question. Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.

First, it helps keep people safe. We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively towards other members of our community when they’re using their real names.

There are plenty of cases – for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband – where preventing the ex-husband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important. As long as he’s using his real name, she can easily block him.

Second, real names help make the service easier to use. People use Facebook to look up friends and people they meet all the time.

This is easy because you can just type their name into search and find them. This becomes much harder if people don’t use their real names.

That said, there is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you.

If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community.

We are working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.

The Facebook creator is incorrect when he claims “real name does not mean your legal name” – as people facing bans from the site previously have been asked to provide actual ID showing their legal name.

There is no such facility for “whatever you go by and what your friends call you”.

Despite comments pointing out this error, Zuckerberg did not clarify his mistake.