Activist and journalist Michael Anti, whose real name is Zhao Jing, is protesting Facebook’s policy of requiring users to register under their real name, which resulted in the cancellation of his account. From AP:
Anti, a popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said in an interview Tuesday that his Facebook account was suddenly canceled in January. Company officials told him by e-mail that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms and that he must use the name issued on his government ID.
Anti argues that his professional identity as Michael Anti has been established for more than a decade, with published articles and essays.
Anti, a former journalist who has won fellowships at both Cambridge University and Harvard University, said he set up his Facebook account in 2007. By locking him out of his account, Facebook has cut him off from a network of more than 1,000 academic and professional contacts who know him as Anti, he said.
“I’m really, really angry. I can’t function using my Chinese name. Today, I found out that Zuckerberg’s dog has a Facebook account. My journalistic work and academic work is more real than a dog,” he said.
Zuckerberg recently set up a Facebook page for “Beast,” complete with photos and a profile. Unlike Anti’s, however, the page for the puppy doesn’t violate Facebook’s policies because it’s not meant to be a personal profile page. Rather, it’s a type of page reserved for businesses and public figures that fans can “like” and receive updates from on their own Facebook pages.
Facebook officials weren’t available to comment on the case. The company says its policy leads to greater trust and accountability for its users.
Facebook’s PR team defended the company’s position in an email to the Global Post:
“To be clear, Mark Zuckerberg created a Page, not a Profile for his new dog. Creating a Page—rather than a Profile—for Beast is exactly what we recommend for people to do in cases where they want to use Facebook as something other than their real self (e.g. their dog, their pen name, a fictional character, etc…),” wrote Johanna Peace of the OutCast agency.
“We fundamentally believe our real name culture leads to greater accountability and a safer environment for people who use the service,” she added. “This view point has been developed by our own research and in consultation with a number of safety and child protection experts.”
This “real name culture” has become increasingly contentious as Facebook becomes established as a platform for political organisation. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote in an open letter to Zuckerberg in February, “the Egyptian and Tunisian governments have reportedly used Facebook to monitor activists, which is surely aided by Facebook’s refusal to allow activists to use pseudonyms.” (Radio Free Europe’s Tangled Web blog carried a counterargument soon after, suggesting that anonymity on Facebook may be less helpful to activists than is often supposed.)
Follow Michael Anti on Twitter.