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Can Facebook Force You to Use Your 'Real Name'?

There are a few entities that require you to disclose your true legal name, but you may be surprised to know that Facebook is one of them.

In a strange twist, Facebook has been deleting the profiles of drag queens in an attempt to enforce its "name change" policy. According to The Huffington Post, individuals operating on Facebook under pseudonyms and stage names (or anything other than a legal name) were treated to Facebook temporarily suspending their accounts.

Can Facebook require you to use a real legal name for your account?

Facebook's Name Policy in Question

Many individuals choose to go by pseudonyms, including many well known celebrity artists: Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, whatever Snoop Dogg is calling himself these days, etc. And while you can choose to make your nickname into your legal name -- even if it's Metta World Peace -- there aren't many social media services that require you to use your legal name.

Enter Facebook. After taking down her profile, the social media behemoth told drag queen Heklina "[a]s part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile." Speaking with Tech Crunch, Heklina noted that she's gone by her drag performance name for "20 years," and that Facebook's refusal is "akin to not acknowledging her as a person."

According to Facebook's stated policy, "Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe." This is certainly questionable for anyone who knows someone with a dummy Facebook profile, and it seems odd that Facebook would focus so heavily on drag queens.

This identity phenomenon isn't new at all for drag performers, who as recently as last month were refused entry into a Denver gay bar for not matching their driver's license photos.

Is Any of This Illegal?

Nothing prevents a company like Facebook from requiring that users register with a legal name -- unless the process is simply a front for discrimination. California and other states have civil rights laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, so Silicon Valley-based Facebook may have some hard legal questions to answer about enforcing its policy.

In the meantime, San Francisco's KTVU reports that Facebook has agreed to meet with Heklina and other members of the drag community at San Francisco City Hall to discuss its "real name" policy.

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