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Facebook has fixed its ‘real name’ policy

What's in a name?

The answer for Facebook has always been, "A lot". 

Since its launch, the social media network has always instructed its users to provide their "authentic identities" - the name "their friends and family know them by".

It's a policy that's seen the social media giant come under increased criticism: while Facebook states that a reliance on real names helps them crack down on bullying, fake spam accounts and terrorists, human rights and online campaigners have accused the social network of putting some of its members at risk with an insistence on the use of real names. 

Only last year Facebook was required to apologise for removing the "fake" accounts of real people: a court case saw Facebook apologise to "drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbours, and members of the LGBT community" after they deleted accounts that they believed were using false names. 

Now that mounting pressure looks to have had an impact, with Facebook finally taking steps to improve its "names process". 

A blog post from Justin Osofsky, vice president of Facebook's global operations, and Todd Gage, Facebook product manager, explains that while the site isn't changing its policy on having a preference for authentic identities, they're adjusting the tools by which users report the "fake" names of others.

"In the past, people were able to simply report a 'fake name' but now they will be required to go through several new steps that provide us more specifics about the report," writes the post. "This additional context will help our review teams better understand why someone is reporting a name, giving them more information about a specific situation."

When setting up an account, users will also be given the ability to explain if their name falls under "special circumstances" - using a secondary identity if they're the victim of abuse or otherwise.

It's hoped that these new tools will help people verify their identity when it's reported to be fake, and make it easier for vulnerable users to outline their situation.

Currently being tested in the US, Facebook expects to roll them out across the rest of its network after monitoring feedback.

(Image: Rex)

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