Recently Facebook began enforcing their so-called “Real Names Policy”. You might remember this making the news back in September when Facebook began closing or suspending the accounts of transgendered people and drag artists who were not using their “real names” on their profiles.
After the wails of protests became too loud for the Facebook PR machine to quash, an agreement was made and some of the users affected were permitted to keep their chosen Facebook names. (http://bit.ly/14YEmTy) However, even after the apology, the
Facistbook Facebook name policy police continued to crawl the site looking for suspicious names. No doubt using some hair brained algorithm which looks for commonly suspicious names.
Often on Facebook, people create accounts for their pets and one of the more common Facebook profiles of yesteryear was Facebook profiles for cats. Profiles with names like Kitty Whiskers, Charlie Puss and other feline similes would be common place. Similarly Doggy Woofwoof, Rover Dog and other animals were common too. Facebook started to prevent such accounts being made but recently, two members of the Facebook community I know of who both have names with cat themes had their accounts suspended. So it seems likely that Facebook’s algorithm is working through its cat thesaurus.
Facebook’s terms of service state that people must use the same name “as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” Which is great. Except I know plenty of Mikes whose name on their driving licence says “Michael”, Jims whose passports say their name is James. Indeed, I know lots of people who don’t actually use their full name on social media because of safety, privacy and historical reasons.
For as long as I have been on the internet, I have used the internet name “Stegzy Gnomepants”. Why? Because my real name is, quite rightly, none-of-your-fucking-business. I have been on the internet since 1998 using that very same name. Look for me on google, you’ll find my accounts everywhere. Stegzy Gnomepants. Occasionally Stegzonopolis Gnomicpantalon. Rarely some other variation. It is my distinct expression of my personality. My expression of creativity. How I wish to be known on the internet.
I also use the name because I realised long ago, the only reason people need your name is so they can compile data about you. Attribute demographic and personal information to form a picture about your personality and psyche. Your political beliefs. Your sexual preferences. Your needs. Not just for marketing purposes. But for sinister reasons. As dear old Edward Snowden pointed out.
There is no need to create a state like the DDR in former East Germany. Not when people freely give every aspect of their waking life to those who want it but don’t ask for it. That is the world now. There is no need to worry about people communicating anonymously when they are forced to use their real name on services they have tied to one identity. We’re being shepherded back into a society that thousands died to prevent 100 years ago. Technology designed to promote democracy is being used to control us. Prevent uprisings. Quash political unrest and difference of opinion. Exactly how Egypt and parts of the Middle East failed to do.
Anonymity causes people to misbehave. Anonymity allows people to do bad things. Anonymity allows people to abuse children. This is what those whipping up the pre-constructed moral panic are saying.
However, it’s the opposite. It’s anonymity that protects us from surveillance. Anonymity prevents abuse. Anonymity saves lives. Anonymity is a right. A way of life.
So, the axe is about to fall. The sword of Damocles may drop at any moment and over ten years of Facebook usage is about to come to an end. I will lose contact with friends I have made long before Facebook because that is how they communicate. I will lose memories. Fond and painful. Over the next few days I am intending to write about this situation. Discuss alternatives. Express distaste and moot alternatives.
Going forward. You can always find me elsewhere. Follow my comings and goings on WordPress (stegzy.wordpress.com). Tweet me on Twitter (@stegzy). Analyse my mind on LiveJournal (stegzy.livejournal.com). Say “Hello” on Ello (@stegzy). Flick me on Flickr (stegzy). Hell, if I’m on it, I’m on it as Stegzy. But as for Facebook. How long I am there is dependent on how quickly their police come for me. Enjoy my last days there. Because when they say stop. I will. By taking myself elsewhere.