Facebook sparked a fierce backlash three weeks ago when it began enforcing a "real name" policy against performers and members of the LGBT community. The company initially dug in its heels, refusing to stop requiring people to use their legal names, inciting hundreds of thousands of people to flee to the quasi-anti-corporate network Ello. Now Facebook is feeling the heat and is slated to apologize for the situation later today, sources tell Valleywag.
*San Francisco Supervisor David Campos's office has confirmed to Valleywag that Facebook has apologized.
We're told the apology will be first issued at a meeting with a coalition of drag queens, LGBT activists, and Supervisor David Campos, all of whom have been pressing Facebook end the discriminatory policy. Before making a public announcement, the company will also outline to activists how it plans to fix its policies.
When reached for comment, a Facebook representative declined to comment on the terms of the policy reversal. However, the representative confirmed the meeting is taking place.
SFist originally broke the news of the impact of Facebook's "real name" policy. At the time, the site reported that members of the transgender community were forced "to suffer the indignity of using birth names that no one recognizes."
Facebook has locked several local performers and [Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence] out of their accounts in recent weeks informing them that they must revert to their given names and set up fan pages for their alternate personas. The problems with this are several. In the case of the Sisters, these are not necessarily performers with fan bases but more a community of people who identify by these alternate names in public more often than not. In the case of drag queens, many already have fan pages but have found those to be less reliable ways of promoting themselves than friend networks, which in most cases they've taken years to build.
Also there are the cases of people who have chosen to use alternate names, or pseudonyms, on Facebook precisely because they don't want to be found there by employers, family members, or nosey journalists.
Sister Roma, a queer nun with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, expressed outrage at the notion of setting up a fan page, telling SFist "I want my friends to find me...I detest the idea of having a fan page. I'm not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans."
Sources say Facebook will stop short of admitting they are reversing the policy, which saw the social network demanding users to go by their "name as it would be listed on [their] credit card, driver's license or student ID."
Rather than owning up to its discriminatory behavior, the company plans on insisting that it always defined "real name" as a person's preferred name. We're told the company will claim that its "real names" policy was being improperly enforced and that a "fix" is on its way.
Update 2:15pm: Following today's meeting with Facebook, Supervisor David Campos's office confirms our original report in a press release.
On Wednesday morning Supervisor David Campos, the lead negotiator for a broad coalition of activists including drag queens, transgender people, performers, survivors of abuse and stalking, political dissidents and privacy activists announced a successful outcome to conversations with Facebook regarding their real name policy.
"The drag queens spoke and Facebook listened! Facebook agreed that the real names policy is flawed and has unintentionally hurt members of our community. We have their commitment that they will be making substantive changes soon and we have every reason to believe them," Campos said. "Facebook apologized to the community and has committed to removing any language requiring that you use your legal name. They're working on technical solutions to make sure that nobody has their name changed unless they want it to be changed and to help better differentiate between fake profiles and authentic ones."