An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg from suspended user Giz

By EDRi · July 1, 2015

I am confused. When your Chief of Personal Products, Chris Cox was speaking with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence he said that Facebook’s policy never required anyone to use their legal name. He said that Facebook wants users to use our authentic identities, the names our people call us, like Sister Roma and Little Miss Hot Mess.

Since I opened my account, that’s what I have done. I’ve been active for nearly a decade now, and I have been known to all of my friends as “Giz” since I was a teenager, for over 20 years now. When I told my mother about this her answer was “But you ARE Giz, that’s even how I have you in my phone!”

The only people who call me by my legal name are clients and the government. And I would rather not be added as a friend by clients, given the nature of my work and the fact that I am female. My female friends have enough trouble with unsolicited sexual advances on Facebook, I’ve been spared all of this because my name was gender neutral.

My legal name is my business name. I really don’t see why I need to use my business name on my profile when it’s not how my friends call me. It could also leave my livelihood at risk as my name is not particularly common. I have witnessed a public page being used in defamation of a friends character – they were accused of being a paedophile because they supported marriage equality. There is no way for my friend to know how many people saw that post, how many could have given it credence. He’s only lucky it didn’t find its way to his work as it would cost him his career working with vulnerable individuals.

So what can I do to ensure that my personal politics or beliefs are not used to defame me and destroy my livelihood? Simple! I use the name my friends call me on my personal profile, like I had been, until Facebook decided I was using what they consider a “fake name”.

I have to admit the irony of Facebook accusing me of being a fake user while sending me automated emails that pretend to be from a human is laughable. This is my connection to those I love. The very fact that I have attempted to engage should alert you to the fact that I am a real person. If I was a troll I doubt the deactivation of my account would matter, a troll will merely set up a new account – and they do not need government ID to do so. If they wish to circumvent the real name policy, then they will just use a real sounding name – because unless you have asked every single user to provide their ID then you cannot claim that every user is using their true name.

If Facebook were to require government ID for registration, or indeed to suddenly require it from all users, how do you think that would affect your site’s traffic? I would imagine it would lead to a massive defection from the platform, purely because Facebook has its chequered past with privacy issues, social experiments and there’s a sizable chunk of the population who would consider Facebook to be working for the NSA.

If I use my legal name on Facebook it makes me more likely to receive unwanted sexual advances from strangers, including graphic photographs, if my female friends experiences are anything to go by. It also makes my business vulnerable to attack by those who cannot seem to separate a difference of opinion from a reason for vengeful attack (they exist, although, at present, with a gender neutral name, the worst I get is generalised attacks, the abuse women receive online is quite different to that which men receive).

I would like my profile back, please. Or at least for someone in Facebook to engage with me. Like I said when you first asked for my ID, why would I want to prove my identity to a company that can’t even do me the basic courtesy of engaging with me as a human?

Yours, Exiled.