Yesterday, the famous British author Salman Rushdie revealed that Facebook had deleted his account over the weekend. He sent the company a photograph of his passport to prove his identity, and the company reinstated his profile. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning.
You see, Facebook looked at his passport and saw "Ahmed Salman Rushdie," the author's full given name, which he never uses. He goes by Salman Rushdie, and that's what his Facebook account originally said. He is universally known as Salman, not Ahmed. When Facebook gave his account back to him, however, it was renamed to Ahmed Rushdie.
To fight back against Facebook, which did not respond to his requests for an explanation, Rushdie took to Twitter. It all started with these three successive tweets:
Amazing. 2 days ago FB deactivated my page saying they didn't believe I was me. I had to send a photo of my passport page. THEN... ...they said yes, I was me, but insisted I use the name Ahmed which appears before Salman on my passport and which I have never used. NOW... They have reactivated my FB page as "Ahmed Rushdie,"in spite of the world knowing me as Salman. Morons. @MarkZuckerbergF? Are you listening?
10 minutes later, Rushdie began picking on Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg:
Maybe @MarkZuckerbergF is a phony. Is the real #Zuckerberg on Twitter? Where are you hiding, Mark? Come out here and give me back my name! So if @finkd is the real #Zuckerberg: what are your people up to, sir? Why have I been denied my name on FB? An answer would be nice.
Another 15 minutes later, and Rushdie started complaining again:
Have been trying to get somebody at Facebook to respond. No luck. Am now hoping that ridicule by the Twitterverse will achieve what I can't. Good idea. Dear #Facebook, forcing me to change my FB name from Salman to Ahmed Rushdie is like forcing J. Edgar to become John Hoover. Or, if F. Scott Fitzgerald was on #Facebook, would they force him to be Francis Fitzgerald? What about F. Murray Abraham? An interesting list: Middle Name Users. James "Paul" McCartney, Francis "Scott" Fitzgerald, Edward "Morgan" Forster... more? #Facebook Victory! #Facebook has buckled! I'm Salman Rushdie again. I feel SO much better. An identity crisis at my age is no fun. Thank you Twitter! Just received an apology from The #Facebook Team. All is sweetness and light.
From his first tweet about the issue, to his last one, Rushdie managed to have Facebook revert his name and apologize in approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Something tells me this would not have been possible if Rushdie didn't have over 115,000 followers.
Facebook's terms of service requires that its members use their real names. The service's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities explicitly says so under the fourth section, which is titled "Registration and Account Security." The description reads "Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way" and is immediately followed by the first point:
1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
Facebook requires its more than 800 million active users to use their real names: nicknames, pseudonyms, and fake names are technically not allowed. Facebook has automated systems in place to check the validity of information you give it, but they are by no means perfect. Many of my friends provide incorrect information all the time to the site, and the social network does nothing.
If you are ever flagged, however, either by another user or by performing some type of suspicious activity, Facebook can ask you to verify your name with valid identification. From there, Facebook often will make sure you are using your real name, as happened to Rushdie.