Facebook and the Invisible Fake Man

sdfsdfdI made this profile picture for Facebook after a tortuous process of needless stupidity from them.

Don’t think for a second that just because you’re using a real name on social media, especially Facebook, that your account can’t or won’t be suspended, without notice. In one second, you’ll vanish. Your wall won’t be visible, your messenger won’t work, and all of your years of pictures, messages, and information will vanish. It will then be up to the whim of some anonymous functionary to decide your virtual fate.

(By the way, yes I know that it’s free. Having said that, I would pay a fee for using the service if I had more control of how the site works and uses cookies and other tracking tools. I would also enjoy the benefit of being subjected to random and subjective rules, implemented haphazardly and without recourse.)

It happened to me. Even though my name, X Teri, is authentic, it didn’t help me. Back in 2007 when I set up my Facebook account, I had to fax/scan my driver’s license and birth certificate to them. It was a pain in the ass back then, but I did it, figuring it was the cost of having an interesting name. The accepted my IDs and I went on about using their service.

Periodically over the years, I’d get a notice saying some drooling conservative -or family member – had anonymously reported me as using a fake profile. I’d send the same stuff to Facebook and the complaint would obviously be fixed, all without causing a massive mess.

This time, however, Facebook rendered my account invisible and locked me out. They told me “they’d let me know.” It didn’t matter that they had all my identification from all the previous anonymous issues. They didn’t check. They didn’t check to see that my own personal website was listed on my “About” profile.

I was lucky. My account was gone for about  a day. In the interim, I found out that many people couldn’t even get past the sign-up page with their legal names. People with 1 letter in their names, or even 2 letters, couldn’t sign up. This is a huge impediment to many groups with shorter names. It’s also a terrible business decision. You can demand that people use their legal names – but you can’t deny them access and then fail to offer an appeal or secondary process to help them.

Last year, when Facebook stepped into a quagmire with the transgender crowd, I watched as the company stumbled around, trying to figure out how to quiet the riot while simultaneously continue to abuse people’s identities.

Identity is a subject I know a great deal about. Privacy is another.

Again, I learned from Facebook’s fumbling of this issue. I doubt they did, however.

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