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Drag queens lead a new charge against Facebook's authentic name policy

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Serving realness to real names

Facebook's changes to its controversial "authentic names" policy last year haven't stopped trolls from abusing it in an effort to delete the accounts of drag queens and LGBT activists, protesters said today at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park. Recode reports that a group of drag queens and burlesque performers known as the #MyNameIs Coalition are asking Facebook to prevent people from maliciously using the tools for reporting fake names. "We were trying to get Facebook to understand that for the past nine months, and no significant changes were made," drag queen Sister Roma told Recode. "We've reached our breaking point."

Notably, some of the protesters' travel costs were paid by rival social network Ello, which enjoyed a few minutes of prominence last fall when some users fled Facebook for its anonymity-friendly confines. Facebook then "clarified" its policies after initially cracking down on hundreds of drag queens who were using Facebook under their real names. The company said users are required only to use their "authentic names," meaning the name by which they are known to most people. It added new ways for users to verify their name, including a library card, that might not require a legal name change.

"We've reached our breaking point."

In a post today on the site, Facebook executives defended the policy as the cornerstone of a friendly, authentic community. "When people use their authentic names on Facebook they are more accountable for what they say," they wrote. "People can be assured that they're really connecting with their loved ones, and no-one can hide behind an anonymous name to bully, taunt or say insensitive or inappropriate things."

At this point, the protesters and Facebook are talking past each other. The changes Facebook made likely have helped some users continue using the service under authentic-but-not-strictly-legal names. But the reporting tools may be making it too easy for trolls to go after performers and protesters. Unfortunately, Ello's involvement here risks making the entire event looking more like a publicity stunt. But there's still room here for Facebook to improve.