So this all began a week or two ago, when Facebook deleted a ton of accounts en masse, all belonging to drag performers, all for contravening a ‘real name’ clause in their terms. Basically, they can all use their full legal names (and Facebook is requiring legal ID to evidence them), switch their existing profiles to ‘fan pages’, or get off Facebook completely.
At the time, I thought it was a cash grab. Facebook fan pages used to be useful, before they got so greedy they reduced the visibility of the posts down to something like five percent, and required you to pay for extra views if you wanted them. Put simply, if I collect 1,000 ‘likes’ on my fan page and then post something, less than 50 people will see that post. If I want more interaction, I have to give Facebook money (and, I’ll add here, the terms of the contract under which you can ‘boost’ posts are so vague that I and pretty much everyone I’ve ever spoken to about them has ended up paying at least twice what they originally intended).
The more popular my fan page, the more money I have to give them. Which, for the record, sucks. Especially when I’m unconvinced that Facebook interaction actually generates any real benefit to me as an author anyway. So although I had a fan page, I’d already given it up as a lost cause well before last week’s #Namegate, after which I decided to delete the page entirely.
Just for fun, though, here’s what I’m talking about in black and white — the stats from my fan page. This is with just shy of 200 likes.
There’s an obvious correlation between likes and comments (the last metrics before the ‘boost post’ button) and interaction (shown in orange) — which is why most pages on Facebook ask you to engage with a post as much as possible — but generally speaking an average of 6.5% of my fans actually see each of my posts. Given most people post on Facebook multiple times per day, boosting posts soon becomes prohibitively expensive — and even with a ‘boost’, you’re still only talking maybe 20-50% of your fans actually seeing what you’ve posted, depending on how much you pay. 100% is unobtainable.
But, whatever. Them’s the terms and that was (I thought) the endgame. Not to disparage anyone who’s been affected by this move (and heh, I’m sure you remember me ranting, ad infinitum, all about it when I got booted), but Facebook is a business and it isn’t required to allow us to tout our business on theirs. So, while I disagree with pretty much every word out of Zuckerberg’s mouth about this whole issue (people with pseudonyms lack integrity — really?), I get that he’s made a business decision and he’s sticking with it.
Why was it drag performers who were targeted? And then why LGBT authors (because no, it wasn’t just me). When I was banned, I sent a message to a member of another Facebook group I belong to, in which I am *gasp* the only LGBT representative. I know a number of members also use pseudonyms, and I wanted them to be wary. Mainly because my suspicions at that point fell firmly on Paypal as the source of my “real name” which Facebook seemed certain it had. (Those suspicions have been since dashed by the acceptance of a patently false name on my account, btw.)
Imagine my surprise when I discovered none of them had heard of anybody they knew getting booted. Not a single one.
Oh, they knew about the drag drama, but authors? No. This was an LGBT-exclusive, apparently. And here was silly old me thinking they’d done a sweep of anyone who had a page (i.e. told Facebook they were using it for a business) and then boosted a post with Paypal (therefore providing their full legal name).
Now I’ve been quick to shout down the shrieking accusations of Facebook homophobia in the past. When people go through the m/m community flagging all of our pictures as porn because they contain something icky like two men holding hands *eyeroll*, I’m the first to point out that it’s bots responding to reports and there will be some formula of X flags in Y time = banned for duration of Z. Not homophobic business practices, just common or garden homophobes manipulating a system designed to protect the site’s users.
This time… Well, this time I’m struggling to understand the pattern if it’s not homophobic.
Facebook has already admitted the drag performers’ names came from other users flagging them, not an algorithm as they first claimed. I assume the same happened to myself and AJ, among others. We know there are sharks swimming the m/m waters, just looking for people to report. But the sheer number of flags which happened at once has really got me thinking. I mean, that’s taken a concerted effort to pull off.
Then a nasty little Twitter account popped up, under the pseudonym RealNamePolice (ironic, I know). Whoever is hiding behind that fake name wants to expose everybody else who also uses a fake name online. Twitter took the account down, but today it’s back. They’ve also got a tumblr. Both accounts are dedicated to ‘outing’ fake names on Facebook, and it was while trawling through the tumblr I found something very, very interesting.
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. — Romans, 13:2
Charming little passage, right? Never mind that I wouldn’t base how to raise a guinea pig on the word of a man who made a living from rounding up Christian men, women, and children for slaughter (really, I wish they’d at least Google Saul of Tarsus before they quote the self-righteous prig), but then perhaps it’s appropriate. Paul is, after all, the epitome of the “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle. A bit like a group hiding behind fake names to out others.
Now, I didn’t look through all the accounts these nasty little people have named so far, but I did look through enough to spot the lowest common denominator… they’re LGBT.
I’m prepared to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt. The more people they can push to fan pages, the more money they make. The more users they can confirm the identities of, the more valuable their demographics are when they sell them. Facebook is a mercenary and ruthless business, and we (its users) are the commodities. So when somebody (or several somebodies) go on a crusade against LGBT folk, and that crusade actually benefits Facebook, there isn’t much incentive for them to shut it down. Hence the meeting in San Francisco, which did nothing more than shut down a very vocal anti-Facebook demonstration while refusing to give a single inch.
And here’s the kicker. Whoever has been reporting these accounts has obviously got a Facebook account themselves. Facebook knows where the reports are coming from, and initially chose to lie to the media to protect those people by saying it was an algorithm pulling the names. Facebook is still protecting those people. People who, we can assume, are affiliated with the Twitter/tumblr crusaders.
Twitter doesn’t need our real names. Tumblr doesn’t. G+ tried it a couple of years ago, but swiftly backed down. Facebook… well, Facebook is powerful enough it just might get away with it.
Here’s the thing. Facebook doesn’t care about your online safety and security, about data breaches or identity theft. Facebook doesn’t give a flying fuck if your ex is a psycho or your family would disown you if they knew you were gay. They don’t care about your job or your spouse or any of the reasons you might want to fly under the radar. You’re a chicken in a factory and you’re on the conveyor belt to the grinder the same as all the rest of us.
Understanding that, I have to wonder why we’re all so desperate to be allowed back on the ride.