SAN FRANCISCO (StartName) – San Francisco drag queens and a city lawmaker met with Facebook on Wednesday demanding the site change its policy banning users from using aliases online, but said they were rebuffed.
Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, has cracked down on users with fake names. A company spokesman said it had locked scores of accounts in recent weeks, including hundreds owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member David Campos and crossdressers from around the city said after the Wednesday meeting that the rule, which requires users to go by their legal names, endangers drag queen performers.
“If we’re going to work together on this, we want acknowledgement that this policy is misguided,” Campos said at the news conference, flanked by a bevy of crossdressers.
Drag queen performers, or men who dress in flamboyant female clothing for nightclub shows, usually use a stage name that has no relation to their real name.
Performers have said using their stage names on social media protects them from possible retribution from other employers, family members and stalkers. In addition, many see their stage name as an integral part of their identity.
“I have been Heklina for 20 years, and I have Facebook telling me Heklina does not exist. So they’re basically wiping you out of existence,” a performer who goes by the name Heklina at the conference.
Facebook said it would give users two weeks to adjust their profiles to display their real name or convert their personal pages into a fan page that allows for the use of nicknames.
Campos and members of the community said the brief reprieve wasn’t enough and they would continue pushing Facebook to change the standard.
“This is San Francisco. You’re dealing with a bunch of drag queens,” said Sister Roma of the activist group the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the news conference. “Throwing together a rally and a demonstration is second nature to us.”
Following Wednesday’s meeting, the social media giant said it would temporarily reinstate “several hundred” deactivated profiles, but it would not change its real name policy.
“We had a good discussion with the group about their perspectives on our real name standard, and we stressed how the standard helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment,” the statement said.
(This story has been corrected to remove incorrect reference to paid fan pages in paragraph 10 and corrects attribution in 2nd paragraph)
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Tom Heneghan)