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Facebook is telling Native Americans their names are fake

Facebook's still working on its name policy after problems with the LGBT community. Now Native Americans like Dana Lone Hill and Shane Creepingbear are being locked out while they're forced to prove they're for real.

Facebook. Image courtesy of 360b/Shutterstock.In October, Facebook apologised to the drag queens, drag kings, and others in the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community, some of which it had recently locked out of their accounts because their names weren’t “real.”

Facebook owned up to a policy that was essentially clueless about the importance of using pseudonyms online to protect people from harassment and violence.

Changes are in the works, Facebook promised at the time.

But missing from that apology and mea culpa: an apology to all the Native Americans who are still getting locked out when they use their real names.

As reported by Colorlines, Facebook is telling them that their user names are fake.

Facebook is actually now calling its “real name” policy the “authentic” name policy, but the gentler name doesn’t make any difference for Native Americans.

That’s because Facebook’s baked an anti-Native name slant into its policy. For example, the company explicitly prohibits using “words, phrases or nicknames in place of a middle name”.

That means that a Native named In Between The Watchers, for example, is in violation of the policy.

Natives claim that the social media behemoth is forcing them to jump through hoops to prove they’re real – including requesting documents such as credit cards or taxpayer IDs to support their claims.

One such is Dana Lone Hill: one of the Lakota people who writes that she was shut out when she used her father’s and mother’s last names (respectively, Lone Elk and Lone Hill).

Lone Hill did what Facebook’s automatic “Please Change Your Name” message requested, sending in three forms of ID: her library card, one with a picture, and a piece of mail.

Be patient, Facebook’s bot responded: we’ll investigate and get back to you.

She was able to log back in, briefly, the day after it was suspended, but then she got locked out again.

Lone Hill writes that she initially felt singled out, but a bit of exploration revealed she wasn’t the only one:

I had a little bit of paranoia at first regarding issues I had been posting about until I realized I wasn’t the only Native American this happened to. One friend was forced to change his name from his Cherokee alphabet to English. Another was forced to include her full name, and a few were forced to either smash the two word last names together or omit one of the two words in the last name. Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes was [booted] from Facebook and when he turned in his proof of identification they changed his name to Lance Brown. After contacting the Better Business Bureau and threatening Facebook with a class action lawsuit, they sent him an apology and let him use his given name again.

Profiles get reported as “fake” when individuals flag them.

It’s happened twice to Shane Creepingbear, the most recent time being in October.

Creepingbear is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, and that’s really, truly his last name. But Facebook didn’t buy it, he told The Washington Post.

I started going through the remediation process to prove that I was a real person. They kept asking me to put in my real name. And they said this doesn’t meet Facebook’s standards.

I had to send in a photo of my state ID and I had done that before and that was very frustrating for them to demand it again. It just felt really marginalizing.

Natives have a few options: Choosing a Facebook-friendly version of their real names is one option.

True, it will probably keep people from reporting an account as fake, but many would see it as demeaning and prejudicial. As the Washington Post said:

For many Native Americans, being forced to "prove" their identities is more than an inconvenience; it is a form of silencing.

If somebody does report a Native name as being inauthentic, it’s up to Facebook employees to determine the issue – a subjective process that’s not guaranteed to be resolved in the user’s favour.

Lone Hill told the Post that it sounds like a matter of ignorance on Facebook’s part, just like how it was oblivious about its real name policy’s implications for the LGBT community:

I just think they have to maybe have more training on what our full names encompass. ... We hang on to these names. A lot of [Native Americans] went with Christian last names and lost their names, so we carry these names proudly.

I asked Facebook if policy changes were in the works.

A spokesperson noted that over the past six months, Facebook’s added a new option for verifying names: one that allows someone with an “authentic” name that isn’t necessarily a “legal” name to provide one ID with the legal name and a few more pieces of documentation for the name he or she goes by.

That’s option 3 on its Help Center page.

The spokesperson also sent this statement:

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. Over the last several months, we’ve made some significant improvements in the implementation of this standard, including enhancing the overall experience and expanding the options available for verifying an authentic name. We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritize these improvements so everyone can be their authentic self on Facebook.

The company responded slowly to the LGBT community, but eventually, it did respond. Changes are still in the works, as it said.

Based on its past response on this issue, I’m hoping, and am pretty sure, that it’s again going to do the right thing.

Image of Facebook courtesy of 360b /


Why would a social networking site demand that you use your real name? Whatever happened to “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware? Oh, wait – the user is not the buyer. The government and data analytics companies are the buyers. The user is the product.


The reason is marketing. The Holy Grail of targeted advertising is to have someone’s real name/identity. With this small piece of information, you open up many doors, especially when it comes to back-channel data trading and sharing. For instance, it used to be (and likely is) a thing where if you know just a few pieces of information and a phone number, you could get phone companies to share information with you about that person; I mean, if you know a few pieces of information strung together, you *must* have had consent and can see more, right?

At any rate, that is the *real* reason things like Google+ and FaceBook chase real names (and also getting you to register your phone number for ‘security’ purposes): advertising and data selling.


Absolutely! I know of many people who have Facebook accounts with totally fictitious names because it meets the lazy, simplistic FB algorithm. That is what happens when you try to control something you can’t understand. Mark Z., you suck!


Twitter: @CheddarGawjus (and others) would argue that the whole #mynameis saga is still very much ongoing in the LGBTI community in the UK – like many drag queens in Manchester she was recently locked out of her account and the ‘old’ policy seems very much alive and well :\


What if I started a facebook account with the name John Smith? That’s not my real name but it wouldn’t be flagged up so their logic is seriously flawed.

Okay, it’s not like it’s Ruby Jugwax or Crash Bearfighter but it’s still fake.


I have two accounts with fake names. One of them is inactive and I can’t even delete it properly, despite the fact that I don’t want it anymore, but hey, it’s facebook, it’ll exist forever, and the other one I use for playing facebook games that annoy my real life friends. Neither of them have any sort of reason to be flagged as fake, because I’ve use imaginary but otherwise very real names. Goes to show FB policy on this is utterly ridiculous, doesn’t protect anyone and on the contrary simple jeopardizes and insults people.


Facebook surely uses different languages worldwide for their non-English customers. Couldn’t they just separate the languages for a users profile and their stored information? Then, if they don’t already exist, create those languages, just like they do now for French and German (etc.)

They need to separate the profile information from the more general stuff, because a Native American might use English for everyday conversation, but either their native language or an Anglicized version of their name and other personal information that’s in their profile.

The question of using a native alphabet could obviously be more complicated. But, this is just for their names (and possibly other profile information, like secret questions).


One problem with some of our Native Languages is that they are verbal only. Histories are passed verbally. Some of the languages use pictographs and hieroglyphs as their written documentation. That is one of the reasons our Native Americans were called upon during World War II to pass classified information over the open radio waves. A little known fact is that while the Navajo got so much of the credit for this through their ‘Code Talkers’; many of the other tribes, using their own non-documented languages, also participated in the successful endeavour.

It might be beyond even the vast capabilities of Facebook.


It’s simple really. If everyone creates one account (other than their real one) with a believable name, Facebook’s policy of trying to sell our details is stuffed.


So anyone that is/was real whether River Phoenix to Brooklyn Beckham will be called fake. Charles Rocket, Larry Lamb, Arizona Muse, Fifi Trixibelle, Sage Moonblood, Gage Golightly, January Jones or Chelsea Clinton will all be considered fake no doubt too.

The Browneyes guy being called Brown reminds me of the scene from Roots where Levi Burton (he’d probably be called fake too) was being whipped….

What’s you’re name? Kunta Kinte, No, you’re name is Toby WHIP !!!

The Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes having to be named Lance brown smacks of hypocrisy as Facebook won’t allow his real name saying it’s fake, but will allow a fake name as though it was real.

Do we really have to be forced to go back to some good olde english anglo saxon names to appease Facebook, If so how will it work if I’m called Cuthbald the Bacchus or Godred the Paige?


Well, I use a realistic name that isn’t exactly my actual name on Facebook, since I am (un)lucky enough to share my name with a (minor) celebrity. I find it amusing that I would be more likely to be challenged as stealing someone else’s name for using my real, sorry, my authentic name, than I am to be called out for not being legally exactly who my FB profile says.


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