Facebook Makes an About Face on Profile Privacy

facebookNot long after blocking the profiles of hundreds of users, social media powerhouse Facebook is apologizing – to drag queens. These flamboyant ladies may not be your typical political standard bearers, but they found themselves thrust into the position of being the tip of the sword in the fight for privacy online.

While stage names are considered A-okay for Hollywood A-listers, popular radio personalities, and music superstars, Facebook was accused of targeting transgenders after deleting hundreds of accounts for supposedly violating the real name clause of its user agreement.

The resultant social media uproar was met with sincere apologies from Facebook leadership, who moved quickly to right the acknowledged wrongs. In a released published by the BBC, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said, “I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.”

Subsequently, a planned protest in San Francisco was quickly turned into a celebration. Spokesmen representing transgender groups said it was clear that “Facebook was apologetic and wanted to find solutions so that all of us can be our authentic selves online …”

However, this incident highlights a greater debate concerning both Internet privacy and what people can consider to be their authentic self online. Where is the line exactly, and does that gray area only apply to public figures and professional performers?

Facebook may not have a ready answer, but members of the transgender community whose protest turned into a party certainly do. Mark Snyder, of the Transgender Law Center told the BBC that “judges, social workers, teachers, entertainers, and victims of abuse” were all justified in using aliases.

Apparently, it seems, Facebook is coming around to this point of view. Initially the social media platform required users to keep their given name. Now the company has relaxed its stance, allowing “everyone to use the authentic name they use in real life.”

Next on the agenda: Who decides the meaning of authentic?

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