Facebook: Censorship Made Easy
As you may or may not be aware, Facebook's policy requires all users to submit their legal names when creating their profiles. You may have been unaware because this policy that has largely gone unenforced. However, they started cracking down on performers this past week - drag queens in particular - for using their stage names rather than their given names and thus violating Facebook's policy.
Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence has been making headlines in the fight against this policy, noting that its selective enforcement is disproportionately targeting members of the LGBT community. She was even picked up by the Wall Street Journal and organized a protest that has led to a proposed meeting with Facebook officials.
Sounds good so far: a company did something the users didn't like, the users complained, and now the company is looking into fixing the issue. Except Facebook seems intent on digging themselves in even deeper.
Some drag performers are finding that they are not just locked out of their account, but that their accounts have been completely deleted, as San Francisco performer Heklina of Trannyshack fame discovered. Going even further, it turns out not just "stage names" are forbidden: anything that is not on your driver's license or official government ID can get your account closed until you fix it, including common truncations despite what the policy above says:
The fallout is that now users are getting a petition going on Change.org to demand Facebook change their policies, but Facebook has their own input on the issue: posting or sharing the link results in the following pop-up:
Now, one might initially think that the address with the suspicious-looking url of "chn.ge" is what's setting off Facebook's spam filters. However, a link to another petition on Change.org that uses the similarly scary address of http://chn.ge/1wAQXY2?share_id=EzXfUJIZhu meets no resistance whatsoever (incidentally, it's a petition to call for an end to the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies, and should also be signed). Then on top of all of that, anyone clicking the posted petition is greeted with this:
Again, the above-linked Boy Scouts petition clicks through without any interference, as do other petitions using the shortened "chn.ge" url. Unless someone from Facebook comes through with a really good explanation, this appears to be a deliberate attempt on the part of Facebook to discourage and even outright censor discussion about their policies. Lest that sound all tinfoil hat-y, Sister Roma has already been a victim of censorship in a private conversation between herself and Sister Unity Divine about Facebook's policies:
Naturally, in the age of social media any attempt to quash discussion about any given topic just fuels the flames higher. Adding drag queens to the mix throws a bottle of pure kerosene on the pyre, so things are likely going to get more heated before they get better. Google, if there was ever a time to swoop in and try and prove that G+ is a superior platform, now is the most golden of opportunities you will ever receive.