“It’s free and always will be”…..(IF YOU SHOW ID)
After 5 years of having my Liberty Speaks Facebook account, a funny thing happened on January 13, 2015 when I logged in. I was greeted with following notification:
“It looks like the name on your Facebook account may not be your authentic name. We ask everyone to use the name they go by in real life so friends know who they’re connecting with. If this is the name you use in your everyday life, we would like to work with you to verify the name that best represents your identity.
I was locked out, my account was no longer in existence. Do not pass GO, you are in social media jail. Ah, but wait…You can get released if you just prove you are Liberty Speaks.
The notification also stated:
We accept a number of documents to allow you to verify your everyday name”
There are three options provided for this process. The documentation list is staggering. Just to give an idea, I am listing some of those documents below (many of which are protected and not to be used as ID):
- Option one consists of providing Drivers License, Passports, Federally issued Disability or SNAP cards, vehicle insurance, voter ID card, Green cards, vehicle insurance card or Marriage certificates.
- Option two is provide two forms of ID. One must include a photo or date of birth matching your information. Some of the examples are bank statement, check, medical record, paycheck stub, social security card, year book photo, utility bill, and mail.
- Option three is for those who don’t have an ID with their authentic name as well as a photo or date of birth: the Government ID. (That option did not go over well)
Facebook goes on to say in their policy that after they resolve the issue, they will permanently delete the ID from their servers.
So after hours of fuming at this latest imposition by Facebook, I had two choices in front of me.
First choice: Abandon Liberty Speaks as a person and create her as a page. Though it would have been nice if I was given the opportunity to do that before getting locked out, but I was not. The image of Mark Zuckerberg dressed as Gandolf yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” kept popping my head.
Second choice: Come out of the blogger closet with my real name and kiss Liberty Speaks goodbye. After a week of long consideration and deliberation I have made my decision. I will take door number 3.
NO I WILL NOT PROVIDE YOU MY IDENTIFICATION
I am not trying to buy Sudafed, vodka, cigarettes, pot, a car or a new home. You, Facebook, are not a casino, corporate office, airport, government building, border crossing, court room or voting booth. (Oops, scratch that last one, that’s discrimination, marginalization, and disenfranchisement remember?)
What I have tried to do over the last five years is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg spoke of in an interview with Wired. His exact words:
“Think about what people are doing on Facebook today. They’re keeping up with their friends and family, but they’re also building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to.”
An image and identity is what I had with Liberty Speaks as a person. I did not create the account to deceive anyone. I created her to have a voice in the game; A voice with out the prejudice and fear that we sometimes experience when opining about politics in our every day lives. I was able to connect with an audience I wanted to connect to. I did exactly what Mr. Zuckerberg envisioned. In five years being Liberty Speaks I have been able to meet the most fascinating people and gain some very close friendships including my co-blogger, A. P. Dillon.
I did so by promoting good debate, discouraging profanity or any hate speech, and unfriending and blocking those who would disparage my 300+ friends. I had established myself as a fair-minded individual who welcomed anyone to friend me with the simple rule of “keep it civil.”
I had never been flagged, banned, reported for abuse, been accused of bullying or making threats, or been suspended for any reason regarding my postings, shares, likes or links. My persona was not made to troll, and not anything like the thousands of pages created to smear groups or individuals that are out there on Facebook. Why is it those pages don’t seem to get the same scrutiny? Oh, and by the way, if we are talking fake names, how many people have their real first or last name as OCCUPY? Just saying.
Now, let’s get down to the crux of this situation. Three things really should be brought up regarding this invasive policy that Facebook has imposed and I will start with the 800 lb “LIKE” button in the room.
There are many who will never believe that writing, speaking or staying anonymous online is valid. They will say it is ‘cowardice’ and that those who hide behind a mask must be hiding something themselves or are there just to be abusive. I will not disagree with that argument, but I will offer one of my own.
Yes, anonymous Facebook accounts have been used for bullying, threatening, defamation, terrorist propaganda and predatory behavior. Those accounts should be dealt with separately and individually. Facebook should crack down on the accounts that are being abusive, however, not at the expense to those who have a legitimate reason for having a “fake” persona.
My anonymity is not due to cowardice but caution. I choose my Liberty Speaks persona because my job requires discretion and my husband is a retired law enforcement officer. I did not wish to open our private lives up to the public at large. Police officers and their families must take steps to protect their welfare in public as well as online due to threats and retaliation from those who wish to do them harm. This practice is not unique, and if anything these days it is being highly suggested for both law enforcement and military.
I used my Facebook account to re-post stories I have done on this blog. Some of those stories could pose a danger to my family and using the name Liberty Speaks was my line of defense regarding this.
To give an example, I wrote an article last summer on Bowe Bergdahl’s father, Robert, and an individual whom he was connected to on social media. This individual is a self-professed “Islamic Jihadist”. After the story was published on this site, Lady Liberty and myself were called out by her in a Fatwa of sorts on her Google+ Account accusing us of being CIA and Mossad. Though I was strangely flattered by the accusation, that incident alone was enough for me to keep embracing my Liberty Speaks Facebook persona.
There are many advantages to anonymity and using different persona accounts on social media. One of law enforcement’s most valuable tools in catching on-line predators, would be terrorists, and other suspects is the ‘fake account’. Much to Facebook’s chagrin, a Federal Judge has ruled it just fine and dandy in the use of ‘luring’ these individuals.
There is also another benefit of the “false persona” being created on Facebook. A very close friend of mine, recently went through a nasty divorce and custody battle. After 13 years of dealing with her abusive husband she was awarded sole custody of their five children. A very strict restraining order was placed on him that included no contact with her or the children period. She has no family in the state so she came to me for help. I designed a Facebook profile for her under a different name so she could establish her online support network without fear of him finding her location, residence, or any other personal information. She now has the ability to share pictures of her children with their grandparents, and is able to keep up conversations with her family. This is something her ex husband never allowed her to do.
Will Facebook soon ask for her ID to prove who she is? If so, then this woman who endured years of psychological imprisonment would once again be alone, suppressed and marginalized.
This term is not normally associated with social media. However, with Facebook not allowing for people to create their own identity by way of a false persona this is a form of marginalization that I feel is occurring:
Social exclusion is a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live.
This has already happened due to Facebook’s policy. While some in the country were explaining why the Washington Redskins Football team should change their name because it disparages Native Americans, in October 2014, Facebook did some disparaging of their own.
The accounts of various Native Americans were suspended stating their names were fake. Oh, did I tell you it happened on Columbus Day? A holiday considered an insult to many Native Americans? This marginalization of a group due to their given names is big news, the mainstream media has done virtually NO REPORTING on this. However, they have managed to report on the outrage from the LGBT community over the deletion of hundreds of transgender performers.
Drag queens (individuals who take pride in self-expression) including Sister Roma of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – a San Francisco group of drag performers and activists began a not so small rebellion against Facebook . In CBS interview several of those performers reasons were given as to why the fake names should be acceptable.
The drag queens and others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community say many Facebook account holders fear using their real names for a variety of reasons, including threats to their safety and employment.
Abused women, bullied teens, transgender people… (there are) a million different people with a million different reasons to use fake names,” said Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Though an apology was given to the LGBT community, Facebook has not backed down. The social media giant suggested to the performers to create a “fan Page” instead of a regular Facebook account, but as one performer in the CBS article stated, “Your reach is limited“.
Lady Liberty, myself, and our other administrator have personal experience with the Fan page option and it’s reach. When the notifications format changed, we noticed a huge drop in views on it. This is something we constantly have to monitor and remind our fans on how to get our updates.
This “real name” policy is a form of Social Exclusion. It suppresses creativity, marginalizes groups or individuals, as well as takes away the sense of safety for others. It cuts off networking and ultimately silences our freedom to express ourselves.
Suppression of freedom of expression is something that our Founding Fathers tried to made sure would not happen to us. One of those original architects, made use of a fake persona or pen name two hundred and thirty-nine years ago.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
One of history’s most famous fake names is Silence Do Good. She was a middle-aged widow who used humor in her letters to get a point across to viewers. She wrote of love, made fun of colonial life, and addressed the state of Education in Massachusetts among other topics.
She also was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was unable to get any of his own writings published in the American Newspaper the New England Courant. However, Silence Do Good succeeded in doing so. Franklin went on two use 7 other persona’s in his writing, including Richard Saunders of “Poor Richards Almanac“.
There are countless false or fake persona’s in our history from Dear Abby to Mark Twain, Ibn Warraq to Dr. Seuss, Charlotte Bronte to George Orwell. All these very famous and influential people had their individual reasons for anonymity. However, they had one thing in common — Their wish and desire for freedom of expression and to have a voice in the game. They found the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom from fear in their “not real name“. I had found it as well.
A Final Note to Facebook
You are not getting my personal identification. Period.
I question your reasons for this policy. Seems to me, the money you create through ad targeting will not work if you can not target real people.
Having millions upon millions of legal documents at your disposal is troubling. If you get down to the bottom line of this policy, it may be your profit that you are more worried about than our “ability to connect with “real life” friends.
Now, I am no Bronte. I am not a literary giant or columnist, nor a dissident from a country that may kill me for my views. I am an American citizen who, up until now, was able to voice my opinions among friends I had accepted personally. Facebook says I am a ‘fake person’, but does that make me less real? Does it make me less important?
The three reasons I offer on anonymity, social exclusion and freedom of expression are all I can do now. My Liberty Speaks account is inaccessible as is my friends list. I have created a new page for her and I say to those who befriended me:
I am Liberty Speaks and I am not going away.
Thank you to Doug Ross @ Journal for linking
Thank you to Grumpy Opinions for linking