Human Rights

Facebook Blocks Native American Users for Having 'Fake' Names

The company's anti-troll policy and name confusion has inadvertently led to hundreds of users having their accounts suspended.

Facebook is having a problem with names again. This time, the social media platform is accused of forcing native peoples to use fake names that sound more “American" (oh, the irony!), and in some cases, kicking them off the network for having names Facebook doesn't perceive as sounding real.

Colorlines cites the case of Dana Lone Hill, a Lakota woman whose account was suspended when Facebook mistook her real name for a made-up one. She had to submit several pieces of identification before her account was restored. Another Native American user, Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes, was tossed off the network for the same perceived issue. He presented official identification, and was allowed back on Facebook, but the company changed his user name to Lance Brown.

You can see how that would be highly problematic. Facebook has since allowed Brown Eyes back on using his real name, but only after he contacted the Better Business Bureau and threatened to initiate a class-action lawsuit.

To add insult to injury, the company began these removals on Columbus Day. Shane Creepingbear, another Native American who was booted off the site, took to Twitter to complain about both the policy and the terrible timing:

He's since been given back his account under his real name, but says some well-placed friends in the tech world had to get involved to make that happen.

Facebook responded to Colorlines’ queries with this statement:

"Over the last several months, we’ve made some significant improvements in the implementation of this standard, including enhancing the overall experience and expanding the options available for verifying an authentic 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."

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had problems with names. Last year, the company got into hot water with members of the LGBT community when it forced drag performers to use the names on their birth certificates, a policy it has since amended (and apologized for).

An online petition to change the Facebook policy currently has more than 12,000 signatures.

(h/t Colorlines)

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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