Facebook apologizes to LGBT users, reverses ground on 'real name' policy
Man points towards Instagram and Facebook apps on his smartphone on April 10, 2012, in Paris (AFP)

An executive for social media giant Facebook apologized to users from the LGBT communities on Wednesday for the company's recent push toward forcing users to use their "real names," attributing it to the actions of a "bad actor," Mashable reported.


"In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we've had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it," chief product officer Chris Cox said in a statement on his own Facebook page. "We've also come to understand how painful this has been. We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we're going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were."

Cox stated that the company failed to notice a pattern of abuse when one "individual" user filed several hundred reports claiming drag performers and transgender Facebook users were using fake accounts. He also said Facebook has never required users to register under their legal names. He did not say whether the company took any action against the user who filed the reports against the LGBT accounts.

"The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life," his statement read. "For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what's been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook."

Sister Roma, a San Francisco-based drag performer, was part of a group that met with Facebook officials on Sept. 19, during which the company offered her and other drag performers a two-week period during which they could either change their profiles to reflect their "real names," or convert their accounts into fan pages.

"While at first glance this seems like a grand show of support for our community, it is actually a completely hollow gesture," Sister Roma wrote following that meeting. Facebook's policy came under further criticism with the creation of the #MyNameIs tag online.

On Wednesday, Sister Roma posted a photo on Twitter of herself before a second meeting with Facebook officials:

Cox said in his statement that the company is working on "building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors."

The Transgender Law Center, which was also represented at that meeting, said in a separate statement that Facebook should "establish clear and easy procedures for users to appeal account suspension" and eliminate a requirement that users show forms of identification before opening accounts.

"What was made clear today is that Facebook is ready to collaborate with our communities and shares our value of making sure everyone is able to safely be their authentic self online," the center said in a separate email statement. "We applaud the many staff at Facebook who advocated tirelessly for this progress."