The below article whose case is under review and legal scrutiny, appeared in the local UK Guardian paper. It suggests that for the first time Facebook users can sue the company over mere name violations.
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What is key in such circumstances is to assess your strengths on a case. You need to look into:
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Dana Lone Hill to bring class action lawsuit against policy that has provoked ire from groups who want their identities protected online
A Native American activist plans to lead a class action lawsuit against Facebook over its “real name” policy, which has drawn the ire of drag queens, domestic abuse survivors and political activists across the globe.
The policy that once required users to use only their “real name” for their profiles came under renewed scrutiny last year after drag queens in San Francisco reported being locked out of their accounts. Facebook restored the accounts, amended its policy and apologized – but groups who want their identities protected online say the changes are not enough.
Dana Lone Hill is one of many Native Americans to report being suspended from their Facebook accounts, a process that blocks users from accessing any profile information until they provide proof of identity by handing over documents. Lone Hill was suspended after changing the account from her mother’s last name, Lone Hill, to her father’s last name, Lone Elk. Once her case was covered by national news outlets, service was restored.
“I want to bring this lawsuit for Native America because these are our real names, these are the names that we were given, these were the names we were born with,” Lone Hill said.
She and other members of the community suspect that part of the problem is that Native American names mix adjectives and nouns – leading them to look more suspicious under Facebook’s enforcement system.
“I’m not saying it’s racism, I’m just saying they need to fix the system,” said Lone Hill.
That system is closely guarded – even from activists who have been working with Facebook to reform its policies. What is known is that Facebook does not proactively search for names; instead, users flag names and a worldwide team looks at such reports to determine their legitimacy.
“They have made it very clear that they don’t want to share how enforcement works because they think people will game the system,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) activist Nadia Kayyali, who has discussed the policy with Facebook in private meetings.
Kayyali said this was ironic because people are using the existing system to target groups.
“If you continue to have ‘this account is using a fake name’ as a reporting option, that seems like you are encouraging people to just be harassing people by filing these reports as opposed to dealing with the behavior itself,” said Kayyali. “So they should really just get rid of the policy.”
Kayyali said groups including LGBT youth, abuse survivors and political activists were particularly harmed by the policy.
In 2014, activists in Vietnam and Syria reported being booted off the site in suspected targeted attacks by opposition forces, including the government. “In other places, [Facebook] is actually the form people use to speak out, so they are very much in danger of being targeted by aggressive governments,” said Kayyali.
Facebook has long said that its policy on not allowing anonymous users is meant to limit abuse, though some, like Kayyali, think it encourages it.
“Having people use their authentic names makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
The company has expanded identification options to include allowing documentation that shows a user’s “authentic name”. This means providing two forms of identification that include a legal name and one piece of government-issued identification with a photo or birthday that matches the user’s profile.
Facebook said it has made “significant improvements” in the last several months, including the expansion to let people use their “authentic name” instead of only their “real name”.
“We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritize these improvements so everyone can be their authentic self on Facebook,” the company said.
Part of the process has made EFF and members of the San Francisco drag community de facto customer service agents for Facebook. Lil Miss Hot Mess is a San Francisco drag queen who has been working with Facebook to communicate the needs of people who do not want to use their legal name on their accounts. On an average day, she sends 10 to 20 messages to Facebook containing information regarding people whose accounts have been erroneously suspended.
Lil Miss Hot Mess said Facebook had promised changes that would help stop people from targeting communities and erroneously reporting its members, and to help people appeal cases in which they have been unfairly or erroneously reported.
“Though we haven’t seen those changes yet,” she said.
“We’re happy that Facebook is sort of taking small steps to make it more difficult for people to falsely accuse people of using fake names, but I still think there is this bigger issue of: do we have a right to choose our name on social media?” said Lil Miss Hot Mess. “And unfortunately even the move to the sort of authentic identity language hasn’t really addressed that.”
The class action lawsuit is focused on Native Americans who say that they have been harmed by this policy. The drag queen coalition is also in communication with Lone Hill, though they are not involved in the lawsuit. “We see this as a broader issue that affects drag queens to Native Americans to survivors of domestic violence and transgender youth,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said.