Facebook Aliases, Mark Zuckerberg, and Integrity

Kari TervoOpinion, Tech7 Comments

What’s in a name? If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, whatever he decides. Do you use an alias on social media? Well, based on that decision alone, Zuckerberg has decided to degrade your character. He said about using an alias on Facebook, “Having two identities is an example of a lack of integrity.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement. As covered thoroughly by Karyne Levy at Business Insider, having an alias can be an example of lots of things, even in people without supposed moral turpitude. Serious repercussions can result from online transparency or trickery when using your real name. Like what? Here, Levy cites this helpful graphic by Mike Woolson that has been fervently circulating throughout Facebook:

Some good reasons to want to use an alias on Facebook. By Mark Woolson.

Some good reasons to want to use an alias on Facebook. By Mike Woolson. Click to enlarge.

Anyone from people who don’t want to come out to their parents to people who are in the witness protection program might want to use fake names on Facebook. There are plenty of good reasons that people of good character might not want to operate under their real names on Facebook. And I’m not sure why Zuckerberg hasn’t thought this through, instead relying on knee-jerk assumptions. And maybe, his ick factor about drag queens, who are the ones who most effectively raised this issue to public awareness (Drag queens are good at getting attention. Drag queens should be an essential part of all social justice outreach).

Also, what is Zuckerberg saying about Facebook’s own “solution,” which is to have a fan page? That’s pretty clearly. . .operating under an alias on Facebook. I checked the fan page for Lana Del Rey. Even though she was born Elizabeth Grant, she has a blue checkmark next to her name. She’s operating under an alias on Facebook with Facebook’s explicit endorsement!

Why is that okay, but not okay to use your personal page as your performer name? It doesn’t make inherent sense. Yeah, bad guys can and do operate under aliases on Facebook, pretending they are people they’re not. But why should that possibility override the considerations of people at risk, as well as general logic?

And about that blue checkmark verifying that a page is operated by the team of a specific, usually very famous, performer: What is Zuckerberg saying about Twitter here? Twitter pioneered the verification system with its green checkmark, which Facebook emulates. Yet Zuckerberg seems to be obliquely criticizing Twitter, because all kinds of people operate under all kinds of aliases over there. And you don’t see Dick Costolo (I had to look that up; point: Zuckerberg) saying that his users who use aliases lack integrity.

The known risks faced by many people who use aliases far outweigh the hypothetical risks he may fear. If Mark Zuckerberg deserves to be known as an effective CEO, he’ll listen to feedback, re-think this issue, and pedal back on those words and his policy. Now, that would be showing integrity.

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Kari TervoFacebook Aliases, Mark Zuckerberg, and Integrity