Facebook Reportedly Deleting Many Second Life Avatar Profiles; Linden Recommends Facebook Pages Instead
Facebook is reportedly deleting numerous profiles of Second Life avatars on the social network. Among them is Angie Mornington, a well-known personality in SL, who recently received an email from The Facebook Platform Team, informing her that "Your personal account was recently disabled by Facebook." The message included a link, Ms. Mornington told me, and after clicking it, "I wound up at a page that said that in order to restore my account, I have to scan and upload a government ID showing my real name and photo, with everything else blacked out (social security number, address, etc.) I refuse to do that."
At the moment, however, there doesn't seem to be a thorough or systematic purging of Second Life avatars -- at least not yet. Over the weekend, I lost about a hundred friends on my own Facebook network, presumably avatars, but I still have hundreds of Facebook friends who are avatars. In any case, it does appear to be a substantial purge, and comes two years after a Facebook rep told me that while the social network requires accounts based on real names and/or identities, "[t]he vast majority of fake accounts on which we take action have been reported to us by other users." So it's possible that any purge is actually being driven by a rash of users filing reports against avatar-based accounts. Or perhaps Facebook is becoming more stringent about its policies in the run-up to their IPO.
In any case, if you do have a Facebook account for your avatar, there's a solution:
As Linden Lab just recommended on its official Second Life Facebook page, "please consider starting a Facebook page for your avi instead. It's simple to do and allows you to connect with other SL Residents on Facebook", without violating the social network's terms of service. To do so, scroll down to the bottom of your Facebook account and click "Create a Page" on the bottom right. As you can see above, the person behind Angie Mornington has already created a Facebook page for her avatar.
In the wake of these profile deletions, a number of Residents have suggested protesting against Facebook, or demanding that Linden Lab discontinue its use of Facebook as a promotion and integration tool. While I understand the annoyance (especially if your account is among the deleted) I think both ideas are non-starters: Real names and identities are a fundamental aspect of Facebook, and Second Life users, while passionate and deeply engaged with social media, are a very small fraction of Facebook's 650 million active users. At the same time, the official Second Life page on Facebook has nearly 150,000 fans, roughly 20% of the world's 800K active monthly userbase, while Linden Lab has dubbed Facebook "The Best Place" to find Second Life content.