Yesterday, I wrote about how someone had reported me on Facebook for using a fake name, and why you should never ever report anyone for using a fake name on Facebook.
Today, I want to share some tips and strategies for preserving your anonymity on Facebook – a lot of this is general knowledge that people know, but for those who don’t, these are maybe some ways you can get around, work with, or resist Facebook’s awful real name policy that hurts the most marginalized. Please note that these are purely things I’ve done, or heard of, that have worked for some people. I can’t guarantee that any of these will necessarily work for anyone, but I think it’s important for people to share as much as possible about subverting the dangerous policy Facebook has in place.
Some notes about the policy, as far as my understanding goes:
- anyone can report anyone’s name, regardless of if the name is fake or not; through some magical process, the mechanics of which I’m as yet unaware of, the creepy Facebook team will decide to lock you out if they deem you to be false. So racialised names, trans folks’ names, and of course, “false” names, ie: names without documents, can all get caught up in this mess.
- anyone can report anyone’s name, without any proof as to the “how real” or “how fake” that name is
- if Facebook decides your name is fake, you will be locked out indefinitely, until you a) submit the IDs they are looking for, b) get lucky. There have been reported cases (see here, here, here, and here) of people who submit IDs who do not get their accounts back, or are stuck in pseudonym limbo.
- Facebook can delete your account permanently. Be mindful to respond kindly, without rudeness, in your emails to them as you follow these steps. Sometimes you will meet bots, but sometimes, you may be interacting with real people.
- Facebook has, as far as we know, 3 ways of detecting “false names”: Automated Systems (Bots), User Reports, and Facebook Investigators (actual employees at Facebook who go around deciding if a profile is fake or not). Other than User Reports, it’s really unclear as to what criteria are being used to monitor people’s profiles.
1. If your name is already “false”, ie: there are no documents to support that name, what can you do to protect yourself from future reporting?
Short answer: No need to change anything, but save important stuff, and make it harder for people to find you, and therefore to report you.
- Save any special posts, notes, or photos to your desktop. This prevents losing access to those memories in case you are accidentally locked out.
- Take a screenshot, and save, a list of existing friends on Facebook that you have, so you can find them again later in case you are ever detected by Facebook’s systems, and locked out of your account. You can find your friend list by:
Your Name (top right hand corner) —> Friends Tab (below your cover photo)
- Tighten those privacy settings. Do not let random people add you as a friend on Facebook, and don’t let everybody see your posts. Your most powerful tools here are “Who can see my posts” (and I would use a custom setting where you can fine-tune who sees which posts, using lists of people), and “Who can contact me” (which you can set to either “everyone” or “friends of friends” – and I would suggest the latter). Especially for women who may reject the hundreds of “friend requests” we get, this might be a way to reduce the impact of User Reports – rejected, dejected guys who report us for a fake name because they’re oh so upset with us.
- In case you’re locked out, Facebook accepts these documents as proof of ID. Note that they accept 1 government-issued ID (with name, date of birth, and photo) or 2-non governmental IDs, such as a letter someone mailed you and a university ID card or a library card. For either of these to work, your IDs, in combination or singly, must have
a) your name, as you want your Facebook profile name to be
b) a photo OR date of birth (and the date of birth must match your existing Facebook profile as well)There is an important third option:You can also submit 2 pieces of ID with your name as you want it on Facebook (like a piece of letter mail and a library card), and one additional piece of ID that does not necessarily have your preferred name, but which has your date of birth and/or photo in order to match it to your profile. This can be a government issued birth certificate, passport, etc with your name assigned at birth. Facebook has said they will not tie your name from this card, usually your birth-name, to your account; they just need it to match the info to your account, and let you use your preferred name/authentic name on FB.
There is a reason I’m including this in the preventative section of this blog post, though I will be reiterating this later on. But basically, I’ll leave you with a few do you have good friends who can mail you something? Do they know what name you prefer to go by? Amazing! Have you visited a library recently? Maybe now is a good time to do that.
- Try to watch what you say in public spaces where people may report you. I know this is a lot of unfair personal self-checking, particularly if you’re a marginalised person and activist. However, this is the nature of Facebook. Facebook doesn’t care if that racist jerk is being racist, or if that sexist jerk is being sexist, so long as they use their real names. Facebook is much more stringent about its real name policy than it is about building a racism-free, and sexism-free community.
- Use your real birthdate on Facebook, or make sure you have documents with the birthdate you are citing on Facebook. This is so important that I’m making it its own point. And the reason is this: your birthdate, photo, and name are the only ways in which Facebook can confirm that your account is actually yours. This actually makes sense to a certain extent, in terms of security protocols, this will reduce hacking. But of course, their name policy is still silly. The point is: it is much easier to have documents showing your other names than it is to have documents showing your… other… birthday? yeah. exactly. it doesn’t exist. And all the protocols for regaining access to your account, if you’re ever locked out, hinge on photo, birthdate, and name(s).
- If you are using a fake birth-date, keep track of what that birth date is in case you ever get locked out. *you will need it*.
2. You’ve been reported, and locked out. Facebook is demanding IDs now to reinstate your account. You have no IDs matching this information…
- ….except the library card you made a week ago when you saw this post (Point 4-6, part 1), and the letter that arrived just today from a good friend. You also have one piece of ID with your date of birth and photo, but not your name-as-you-want-it – maybe this is a school university ID, maybe it’s a government-ID. Either way, you’re good to go. Simply go through the form that Facebook will insist on you going through, and, referring to this guideline‘s option 3, submit your IDs: 2 pieces of non government issued ID with your name (the letter mail, and the library card), and the one card with your date of birth and/or photo (the university ID, or government issued card). It might be that this card with your date of birth and/or photo ends up being a government-issued card. Cover up any identifying information on the government issued card such as: License plate number, health card number, address, etc. Scan all 3 cards or take a photo with your phone or computer’s webcam, and send them in through Facebook’s form. Facebook has said they will not tie your name from the date-of-birth/photo card to your account; they just need it to match the info, and let you use your name on Facebook.Remember that so long as you have an ID that has your birthdate-as-on-facebook, as well as a photo, it’s ok that it’s your birth name, for the purposes of regaining your account; Facebook will understand that you have a preferred name, based on the other documents you submit through option 3. So if all you have is a library card (preferred name), a letter (preferred name), and a driver’s licence (birth name), you can still get your account back with your preferred name.
- …because you didn’t read this post a week ago.
a) You can take a little time and get those IDs in order however you wish (a letter, a library card, a transit/ttc/stm card – they get you to sign on the back for taxes- or any other option as described here)b) You have no time to get someone to mail you a letter, and you don’t take the transit anywhere. Well, I’m going to carefully reiterate, simply copy-paste, to explicate exactly
what I wrote above, I send this little spell
to you with love: “take a little time and get those IDs in
order however you wish (a letter, a library card,
a transit/ttc/stm card – they get you to sign on the back for taxes –
or any other option as described here)”And, because I like to share my poetry, have a poem, a propos of nothing.
- …because you simply have no ID with your name and date of birth/photo (the last component of using option 3)So basically, this is the worst case scenario.You have only documents with preferred names (a letter, a library card), and none with your birth date-as-on-facebook, or photo (you have no government-issued IDs basically).
To regain access to your account in this situation will be,
based on what I can tell, next
to impossible, even spells,
only go so far, can only
scatter light so much,
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
If you used a fake birth-date on Facebook, do you remember what that fake birth-date was?
Did you back up everything important on your Facebook account?
Did you know I write poetry on this blog too?
Did you know some colleges and universities issue identity cards with a date of birth and a photo?
And most important of all, did you know the sky is only blue because white light from the sun hits the air, and air molecules disperse blue light more than any other colour, so it looks like it’s coming from everywhere?
Sorry to get so cryptic, but I really don’t feel comfortable advising anyone to do anything in this capacity if they find themselves in this situation! You can always try to submit an appeal to Facebook. This will open a “support inbox” that Facebook will use to communicate with you, as well as through your primary email account attached to Facebook.
And that’s that folks! Thanks for reading, and I hope this post helped at least some folks out in terms of navigating Facebook-land.