A German state has declared that Facebook’s policy requiring that a user identify himself by his real name violates that state’s law allowing the use of pseudonyms and contravenes the fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet (see here for an Associated Press article).
The Facebook Name Policy states:
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.
It further explains that this helps keep the Facebook community safe. Given this concern for safety, Facebook will remove all fake accounts.
This is not the first (and surely not the last) time that controversy surrounds one of Facebook’s privacy policies. Although a user of Facebook for many years now, I have to admit, I was not even aware of this policy. In fact, all the people I know on Facebook use their real names…
This raises a number of questions. Apart from the fact that it is yet to be determined whether Facebook is subject to this German state’s law, does this Facebook policy actually create a safer online environment and community for its users? On the other side, is the right to use a pseudonum really a matter of to be protected by freedom of expression? Facebook is set to fight this order to allow users to use pseudonyms. Let’s see how this privacy concern plays out.