Facebook has found itself in a controversy with LGBT groups this month after it decided to more strictly enforce its “real names” policy, making all users go by their birth names on the site. However, as pointed out sharply in an infographic created by cartoonist Mike Wooten this week, there are many more reasons people could want to use alias on the site beyond concealing their sexuality.
Some of these reasons include having a job where exposing personal details could put a user at risk, being cyberstalked by an abusive ex or hiding from potential threats after reporting criminal activity.
Though Facebook has met with LGBT activists about the issue, the site’s stance remains the same, and many LGBT users are leaving Facebook for other social networks. However, according to Wooten, the solution would be incredibly simple.
“Facebook could allow users to use pseudonyms but require that they acknowledge them as such,” he said, saying that there could be an asterisk or a similar symbol next to names of users going by a pseudonym. “The people who are hiding behind pseudonyms, the stalkers and molesters and cyberbullies Facebook says it is trying to stop, they are the ones pretending their fake names are real. And they are using commonplace names that don’t get flagged the way drag names do.”
By forcing users to implement their real names, Facebook is technically following the letter of their own law. However, when the tide of public opinion turns against them like this, it might be better for them to follow the spirit of the law instead.