If your name is John Smith or Jane Doe, you’ll likely have no trouble maintaining a Facebook account. Likewise if it’s Abdul al-Awlaki, Jerome or Lakeisha Wilson, Jimmy Dean or Johnny Walker. But if your name is Shoy Mohr or Shane Creepingbear you’ll get shut out of your account and may be asked to provide a scanned photo id just to prove that your real name is your real name.
Such is the case for what seems to be an increasing number of Native Americans who signed up for Facebook using their real, legal, given names. Recently an old woman in Oregon by the name of Shoy Mohr had her account locked and when she asked why she was told “Her account was disabled because Facebook isn’t sure “Shoy Mohr” is a real person.”
That response raises a number of questions about what a “real” Facebook name looks like. I don’t think anyone would doubt that a European, Arab, Asian, or African name would have been left alone even if it wasn’t the account creators real name at all. I’ve known plenty of people with fake Facebook accounts under common sounding names. Indeed, I’d warrant that most of the fake names out there sound “real” so why does Facebook’s algorithm single out Native American names for extra scrutiny when it’s easier to fake it with a more common type of name?
Here’s how one man says he found out his name wasn’t “real” according to Facebook.
Shane Creepingbear, 32, says he was removed from Facebook several years ago and went through the steps to convince the company that Creepingbear is actually his last name.
“The policy is arbitrary and irrelevant,” he said in an interview with Yahoo News. “I want Facebook to do some self-reflection or acknowledge how they’ve marginalized people.”
Creepingbear, of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, said he was booted from the social network again last year, coincidentally on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
It’s no wonder that Native Americans are upset enough about this to set up a petition site to pressure Facebook to change their policy (now standing at 20,000 signatures). The rejection of Native American names has a brutal history harkening back to a time when Native American children were sent off to Native only boarding schools and given new, White names in an attempt at forced assimilation and re-education.
For Facebook’s part, when this issue was first reported by Yahoo News in February, a Facebook spokesperson said the issue was being fixed and defended the company’s “fake names” policy. This was after complaints spanning nearly a year.
“We are committed to ensuring that all members of the Facebook community can use the authentic names that they use in real life. Having people use their authentic names makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech.”
Facebook also allows affected persons to get their accounts back by providing a legal photo ID, something unnecessary for any other person with a non-Native sounding name. This option was offered to Shoy Mohr who declined to take part.
“I don’t know what they’ll do with it,” Mohr said. “I don’t trust them. It could go anywhere on the internet.”