Good news (maybe) for the many Second Life users who have a Facebook account named after their avatar, but are under threat of Facebook blocking their account for not being a real name: You can petition the company through Sister Roma, a well-known and widely-admired San Francisco drag queen who has been helping Facebook improve its real name policy, especially as it applies to people like her, members of the LGBT community who are better known for their stage/persona name, than their legal name. I asked her if she could also help SL users use their avatar name for their Facebook profile without it being deleted by the company.
“To some extent, yes,” Sister Roma tells me. “Facebook has acknowledged that users may have authentic identities that are not reflected in legal government issued ID or displayed on a piece of mail like a utility bill. Your user name should reflect the name you are known by as and use in your everyday life, on- and offline.” (Emphasis mine.)
So for Second Life users, there’s a fairly big catch: Facebook defines your “real name” as “the one you've chosen and live every day.” (In other words, not just when you're logged into the servers of a for-profit Internet company.)
“Are you saying a Second Life user who goes by their avatar name on Facebook needs to prove that they also use that SL name in real life?” I ask Sister Roma.
“That's the way to get Facebook to recognize an authentic identity,” Sister Roma simply answers.
As it happens, Sister Roma has helped a Second Life user restore her Facebook account with her avatar name -- however, this person (who I won’t name for privacy reasons), also uses her Second Life avatar name when performing offline in the real world:
“I took her name as a performer in clubs and venues doing comedy and performance,” she explained to me recently. “I worked with actors, Broadway stars, musicians, celebrity stylists, cultural icons, and during this time people knew me as [my SL name]... it was an adaptation and a brand that became recognizable in New York City and beyond..”
So if you’re a Second Life user who wants to keep using your name on Facebook, my guess is you should take some steps before contacting Sister Roma: Perform on a real stage (with published billing) under your Second Life name, for instance. Or maybe publish a book or magazine article with your avatar name. Or hell, maybe legally change your real name so your middle name becomes your avatar account? Frankly, outside public figures or performers, SL avatars (or any other MMO avatar name, for that matter) still seem to be in a nebulous state, in Facebook’s eye.
That said, here’s Sister Roma’s guide to requesting her help with Facebook:
Currently the only way to get an account that has been reported and suspended in the review process is to have the user email me directly. Roma@theSisters.org with the following information:
• Your current profile name, the account URL (i.e. wwwfacebook.com/SisterRoma), and/or the email associated with your account.
• Brief details about your experience – for example, why you were told your account was suspended.
• Explain who you are and give other details or information that could help Facebook evaluate why your account may have been inaccurately suspended. Remember that your legal name may not be your "real' name. Your real name is the one you've chosen and live every day.
• Give your authentic name (the name you go by in every day life that you have previously used on Facebook) as it should appear on your profile.
If you do file an appeal, please let me know how it goes (or doesn’t)!
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