Facebook’s ongoing war on pseudonyms is well-documented. The company wants everyone to use their real name on the social network, and ideally this would be their only identity on the Internet. Menlo Park often bans users that use fake names (most are spammers, but many are just using pseudonyms), but it recently went further than that: the company is now asking you to snitch on your friends if they are not using their real name.
As you can see in the screenshot above, courtesy of Twitter user chapeaudefee (viaTPM), Facebook recently started prompting friends of users with names they suspect to be fake. Facebook confirmed the prompt with The Next Web today:
We are always looking to gauge how people use Facebook and represent themselves to better design our product and systems. We are showing people information that their friends have made available to them and we indicate to the person taking the survey that their response will be anonymous to ensure them that we are not sharing their data with anyone and only looking to understand the results in an aggregate sense. Additionally, it is important to understand that we will not be using this data for enforcement actions.
Again, if you can’t see the above image, here’s the full message:
Please help us understand how people are using Facebook. Your response is anonymous and won’t affect your friend’s account. Is this your friend’s real name?
You then have four options to choose from: “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know,” and “I don’t want to answer.” Notice that there’s no ‘x’ in the top right corner to close the prompt.
There is, however, a link to the company’s Name policy, which includes the following question and answer:
Why doesn’t Facebook allow fake names?
Facebook is a community where people connect and share using their real identities. When everyone uses their real first and last names, people can know who they’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe. We take the safety of our community very seriously. That’s why we remove fake accounts from the site as we find them.
Facebook has a point that using real names is a good way to keep its users safe. Unfortunately, it can also endanger them: many Facebook users opt to use pseudonyms to hide from stalkers, abusive exes, and even governments that don’t condone free speech.
Yes, these people are breaking Facebook’s terms of service. Yes, the company certainly needs a way to enforce said rules. No, I don’t think asking friends to snitch is the right way to go about it.
The earliest report I could find of this prompt dates back to June 7, 2012 over at Heise. Facebook told the German publication on June 9 that this is being run as a “limited test.”
I contacted Facebook again to verify if this was still the case, or if it was a broader roll out. “Yes, this is still just a small test,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Next Web. Personally I’m hoping the test will fail.