Monday, February 23, 2015

Facebook Accused of Suspending Accounts of Native Americans, Asking They Use "Real Names"

By Bixyl Shuftan

Facebook has often been the subject of grumbles from Second Life users for it's "Real Names Only" policy. But recently they've been the targets of a group of people whom claim even their real names get no respect from the largest of all social networks: American Indians.

On the "Last Real Indians" website, Dana Lone Hill describes how she was suspended from using Facebook, getting the message, "Please Change Your Name." Even though she was using the name she was going by in real life, Facebook still didn't think this name was her real one. They did suggest if she provided proof, they would reactivate her account. So far, "To date I have sent 3 forms of ID, one with a picture, my library card, and a piece of mail in file form. I received a generated message to be patient while they investigate to see if I am a real person."

Hill wrote she wasn't the only Native American to get such treatment, describing how another had to change his name to an Anglicized one, some had to "smash the two word last names together or omit one of the two words in the last name," and one was able to use his real life name only after contacting the Better Business Bureau and threatening Facebook with a lawsuit.

"Why do we have to prove who we are on the internet where anybody can be whoever they want. We already have to prove who we are in real life with our blood quantum. No other race in mankind has to prove their blood percentage but Native Americans, just like dogs in the AKC. Katy Perry’s Left Shark from her Superbowl halftime show has a facebook page and we have to prove who we are?"

Nadia Kayyali wrote on The Electronic Frontier Foundation that the issue was more than just a matter of inconvienence to Native Americans, quoting Creepingbear, "There’s been a long history of Native erasure and while Facebook might not be enacting it with that intention, it’s still a part of that long history of people erasing native names."

Hill pointed out there was a petition on for Facebook to demand that they allowNative Americans to use traditional names. So far, over sixteen thousand people have signed it, with about eight thousand five hundred needed at the time of this article's publishing.

Native Americans aren't the only ones complaining about being disconnected. Russel Brandom wrote on "The Verge" that human rights activists in countries such as Vietnam have also been targeted.

As it turns out, New World Notes is reporting that Facebook may be altering it's policy somewhat, allowing users to use pseudonyms, but with a catch. In response to complaints from drag queen performers, Facebook is making some allowances for alternate names but in the words of one such performer, "Your user name should reflect the name you are known by as and use in your everyday life, on- and offline."

So perhaps Native Americans may soon be getting a break when it comes to their ethnic names. For run-of-the-mill Second Life users however, although there are suggestions that moves such as including a real-life photo can sometimes get Facebook moderators to look the other way, the threat of their accounts being blocked remains.

Sources: "Last Real Indians,", Electronic Frontier Foundation, "The Verge," New World Notes

Bixyl Shuftan

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