Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Facebook Outted Me

Facebook outed me, not for being being gay or transsexual, but for being associated with Pagan, occult and other alternative communities on Facebook.

Be warned - Pagans, drag queens, transgender people, gays living in countries where they face violence and murder, non-mainstream religious groups - anyone not using their legal names in order to interact safely online without fear of exposure or persecution - Facebook has appointed itself in charge of moral policing and is gunning for you.

Lots of folks anonymous profiles are being disabled by Facebook admins - because they are not using their legal names. It seems even Pagans are falling victim to this modern form of persecution which appears designed to either force persecuted minority groups out of FB, or to force us out into the open in order to face direct persecution.

There are a great many people who feel the need to interact under a nom de plume online. Contrary to first conclusions, most certainly do not have ulterior motives including child baiting or acts of terrorism in mind. Nor is it a new thing. Since the start of the internet, people have had user names or handles that gave them a measure of privacy on forums and other social media - and yet their actions are mostly within the law. In any event, few realize that they can be tracked or identified by their IP address or ISP identifications - that is bad enough as it is - but it is most likely only governments which can obtain such information, or very smart hackers. However, this move by Facebook is a direct assault on several freedoms enshrined not only in South Africa's Constitution, but America's as well.

"Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real first and last names and real birthday so you always know who you're connecting with.

Your name can’t include:
- Symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, or punctuation
- Characters from multiple languages
- Professional or religious titles

Other things to keep in mind:
- Nicknames can be used as your first or middle name if they're a variation of your real first, middle, or last name (like Bob instead of Robert)
- You can always list an alternative name on your account: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=131728300237162
- Only one person's name should be listed on the account – profiles are for individual use only
- Pretending to be anything or anyone is not allowed

If you’re worried about your privacy, you can restrict who can find you in searches from the “Connecting on Facebook” page. To get to this page, click on the Privacy Settings link in the Account menu at the top of every Facebook page."

So apparently "Captain Jack Sparrow" wouldn't be welcome on Facebook, nor "Lieutenant Dan Choi" and neither would "C3-P0" or "the Pope". Cute.

The "alternate name" setting referred to above only gives the option of displaying both names on the same page - making it that much easier to connect my profiles and activities in different communities. Yes, please.

If one looks at their policy, strictly speaking - then anyone who is at risk of persecution should not be a member of Facebook - and Facebook would only cater for privileged social groups.

Gay people in Uganda for example dare not interact openly online on Facebook for fear of being targeted for intimidation, violence and death - would Facebook ban their profiles as "fake" too? Or would they simply "out" them on FB under their legal names as they did to me?

What is next? No more avatars? Will they demand a photo mug-shot style as well to be used as a profile picture? Do they seriously expect people to participate in online communities under their legal names with the likelihood that they will suffer harm for it? Apparently what is clear from this is their ultimatum - interact under your legal name, whatever the consequences - or don't interact at all. I suppose you could also say it is implied that if you need protection or anonymity to conduct personal business on Facebook, then you shouldn't be there - and more to the point, neither should communities of people who need anonymity because they fear persecution or prejudice or wish to interact without it.

What about transgender people who are busy transitioning and interact on Facebook without having obtained legal documentation in their new gender? Will Jane Smith be disabled because someone reports her for not using her legal name "John"? Will Facebook block them or out them? What about drag artists? Will Facebook prevent them from participating under their stage names? What about practitioners of religions which are persecuted in certain areas of the world?

This is either a very poorly conceived policy, or a very deliberate one.

In the meantime, there are now hundreds of posts as well as emails and other Facebook communication all over certain Facebook groups, and personal messaging between myself and others, which now bear my legal name - and which have now tied me to my private activities in various alternative communities.

While I have done nothing illegal, I still have the right to privacy - and this has been denied me. The policy of Facebook policy might WANT Facebook to be a place where people communicate under their legal names - but the reality - like the rest of the entire interweb - is something entirely different.

I have not deleted my second profile because of all the work connected to it, spanning several years - and the groups and Facebook friends to which I am added that would all be lost if I were to do so. I have had to close and limit access to my profile information, and remove everything from it that tied me to those communities. I now have to act like a paranoiac because of this ridiculous and unreasonable policy.

Facebook's appeal process does not allow any communications when appealing, and so I was unable to add any notes when I sent them a copy of my identity document, as requested, as proof that I was a real person operating that profile. I did so in good faith that my profile would be restored under the name it had originally. Instead, my legal name was entered into it, and locked so that it could not be altered again by me.

At any rate, this doesn't change the fact that I have been exposed - deliberately and willingly. Rest assured, if there were a viable alternative to Facebook, I would have closed my account and left.

This exposure has now revealed to persons within the communities in question, who might be regarded as hostile to me, my location and daily activities. People in my other social groups, my employer, colleagues and anyone who does a Facebook search for my legal name will now also find this profile and associated information.

It is a fundamental right for me to conduct business or to interact with privacy and under a pseudonym - and Facebook has denied me this. The damage is already done - I cannot recover my privacy and anonymity - it is now lost. I am bitterly and deeply aggrieved by this.

Speaking as a victim of this sort of betrayal and foulplay, I think this policy of FB is intended to force subcultures, alternative lifestyles and persecuted minorities either out of FB, or into the open where they can be targeted. It is abhorrent, and as an American company I believe it is acting contrary to the American constitution.

We need a broader international coalition of Pagans and alternative cultures and human rights activists to take this up with Facebook. If they will not listen to appeals from users, perhaps they will listen to an injunction from the US Supreme Court? Any takers on that?

This is all part of the "Big Brother's watching you" crap - because certain events around the world have featured people participating in violent protests like the riots in the UK communicating via FB to coordinate their strikes - and so they obviously have been taken to task by certain governments in order to prevent people from doing so under fake names so they can catch them. You can kiss democracy, freedom of expression and other liberties goodbye if this keeps up.

This measure and action discriminates against and endangers the privacy and and even the lives of LGBTI people, Pagans, Wiccans and participants in other alternative subcultures, and in fact anyone who feels reluctant to express themselves under their legal names for fear of reprisals and persecution.

What about those of us speaking out against this Facebook policy? Will Facebook delete this event and block those participating in it, or speaking out against their abuse of power? Will they continue to act like Big Brother?

Let's see.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.



  1. Facebook do as they please irrespective of the wishes of their users. Speaking out will make not one iota of difference to them as long as the big bucks keep flooding in.
    We who are old enough to respect a person's right to privacy will be no match against the younger ones who look at Facebook as a miracle of the new age. Hence - we must accept or bugger off!

  2. Simple:DON'T USE THE SERVICE. YOU don't have the right to FORCE THEM to allow you to use their forum service however you please.

  3. Always nice to see how some people completely miss the point...

    THEY don't have the right to endanger lives. Whether or not people have violated their silly little terms and conditions. THAT'S human rights. That's the point.

  4. Yes they do. You have to agree to give them your name.

  5. I added my alternative name and checked "include this on my profile", but nothing shows up. Could you tell me why?

  6. Maybe because Facebook doesn't care about alternate identities?