What is in name? A Lot Says Facebook

Facebook is now in the middle of scandal that has exposed the flimsiness of its no pseudonym policy. Andrea Petrou at Techeye.net says,

“The complaint against the company comes from a well-known Chinese commentator – Michael Anti – who has accused it of insulting him by closing his account. He hasn't been reported for bullying or similar, it's because he uses a pseudonym for a page he hosts.

The reason Facebook chose to close his account – it requires people to use their real names.

Born Zhao Jing, Anti has used the latter for over ten years and it's not uncommon for Chinese people to use English alternatives. Chinese people often pick English names and use them for communicating with foreigners.”

Michael Anti. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It is interesting to note here that recently Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's dog got a page at the popular social networking site for himself. Raises obvious question, a dissidents work which  heavily depends on networking an exchanging information through Facebook is less important that celebrating a dog?

True, the dog has a page and nor a profile so the real name rules don't apply, but still it shows Facebook's value system. Michael Anti did not come up with that name yesterday to hide from the Chinese authorities or that he is abusing his new name to impersonate someone. He has been using that name for over a decade now and even has a Harvard certificate to prove, where he completed fellowship. It is also important to note that he set up his profile in 2007. So for four years, Facebook was fine with the name Michael Anti, and now all of a sudden they find it unacceptable?

At Twitter, the reaction was swift and mostly against the Facebook policy. Rebecca MacKinnon, noted free speech advocate and one of the founders of Global Voices Online  commented,

“Zuckerberg's dog is on Facebook but for Chinese blogger Michael Anti it's not so easy.”

Facebook has survived many scandals but this one is particularly concerning given the fact that now many activists and groups are using the site to organize and coordinate. Will there be mass exodus of activists from Facebook?


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