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Facebook Begins Enforcing 'Real Name' Policy, Disproportionately Affecting GLBT Performers

My Name Is Roma

Facebook requires members to use their real names, a fact of which most folks are likely unaware due to the policy largely being unenforced, a decision quite possibly made due to the substantial blowback Google Plus received with their mandatory real name policy that they only recently rescinded. However, Facebook is now cracking down on their policy and the fallout is a disproportionate effect on LGBT individuals and drag performers in particular.

In a remarkably tone-deaf response in an interview with Business Insider, a Facebook representative said:

If people want to use an alternative name on Facebook, they have several different options available to them, including providing an alias under their name on their profile, or creating a Page specifically for that alternative persona.

As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile.

Fan Pages and Musician/Group categories are how stars like Lady Gaga, Madonna, RuPaul, and will.i.am keep their obvious stage names. 

Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is presently one of the more high-profile dissenters to the policy. When Roma, who now has to go by Michael Williams in order for his Facebook account to remain active, was told to create a Fan page he responded

I use this site to keep up with friends and simply don't want employers or crazy stalker people to log on and search me . I want my friends to find me...I detest the idea of having a fan page. I'm not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.

Saying additionally:

Bottom Line: I've been Sister Roma for 27 years. Ask anyone what my name is, in or out of drag, and they will tell you it's Roma. #MyNameIsRoma

Which brings to the forefront something that Facebook may not be considering: safety. While no doubt some users adopt pseudonyms for the purposes of trolling or harassment, no small number adopt fake names to protect their privacy and safety, and when that privacy is broken it can lead to disastrous results as one particularly devastating incident on Google Plus revealed.

This mandatory outing could be especially destructive for LGBT youth who need the protection of anonymity to connect with friends and resources without subjecting themselves to the hatred of peers...or even their own family. Going to Sister Roma again, she posted a message she received from a friend when the name change went into effect:

Here is an example of the comments i have received regarding Facebook's legal name change policy:

"The name I was born with is the name of a victim, a lonely little boy who hated himself.

That is NOT who I am. 

#MyNameIsJayd"

Adding to all of the chaos and shady business, Roma went to reply to a message from Sister Unity and found that the entire thread had been censored, along with other conversations that had discussed Facebook's name change policy. 

Then there's the whole question of "How does Facebook enforce this?" Unlike Google Plus, users don't have to submit photographic proof of identity when they sign up, so it seems to be that enforcement his highly subjective and is going to target people with obvious stage names rather than people who are simply creating a fake profile with a real-sounding name. Enforcement is also very spotty; Roma and some Sisters have been forced to change their names, while other Sisters like Nancy Drew Blood and performers like Heklina have their drag names intact. 

A Change.org petition has been started to demand that Facebook allow performers of all types be allowed to use their stage names and is seeking 2,800 signatures. As of right now, Facebook hasn't commented any further on the issue.


Lebanese Police Use WhatsApp to Target Gay Men

Whatsapp-logoPolice in Lebanon have taken to using messaging app WhatsApp to target men they suspect of being gay.

Helem, a Lebanese LGBTQI organization, has released the following warning, which succinctly explains the situation:

Helem has learned that the Hobeich police station has been arresting individuals in Beirut and going through their WhatsApp contacts. They are summoning contacts from detainees based on their WhatsApp conversations to go down to the police station for questioning. If you receive a phone call DO NOT GO, call 71 916 146 and Helem representatives will instruct you on what to do. DO NOT answer unknown numbers and save the Hobeich police station numbers on your phone so you can recognize them.

This is very important, please share with all of your friends and contacts either publicly or privately.

The news is the latest in a series of extreme behavior of Lebanese police toward gay men. In the wake of yesterday's news about the flaw in Grindr, it's also a stark reminder of how apps are changing our notion of privacy.


NSA Legally Harvesting Facebook And Gmail Data From Offshore Data Centers

Obama NSA
It's a secret to nobody that the NSA invades the privacy of Americans daily, but what's astounding is how much they harvest and how few restrictions are placed on them. The Washington Post released an article on how the NSA takes advantage of offshore data centers to harvest from companies like Facebook and Google, who use those offshore centers to help distribute their traffic and data loads, and how these actions haven't been authorized by Congress...and don't need to be. 

The agency avoids the restrictions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting contact lists from access points “all over the world,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. “None of those are on U.S. territory.”

Because of the method employed, the agency is not legally required or technically able to restrict its intake to contact lists belonging to specified foreign intelligence targets, he said.

Should anyone be concerned that all of this questionably-obtained data would be misused, never fear: there are accountability measures in place.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the privacy of Americans is protected, despite mass collection, because “we have checks and balances built into our tools.”

NSA analysts, he said, may not search within the contacts database or distribute information from it unless they can “make the case that something in there is a valid foreign intelligence target in and of itself.”

The Patriot Act provides a lot of the authority for the NSA to engage in these privacy invasions with little oversight or accountability. For their part, Google and Facebook did not opt in to this data collection.

“We have neither knowledge of nor participation in this mass collection of web-mail addresses or chat lists by the government,” said Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick.

Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth said that “we did not know and did not assist” in the NSA’s interception of contact lists.

The NSA is reaping some small measure of karmic retribution, however.

Spam has proven to be a significant problem for the NSA — clogging databases with information that holds no foreign intelligence value. The majority of all e-mails, one NSA document says, “are SPAM from ‘fake’ addresses and never ‘delivered’ to targets.”


The NSA, Data Privacy, and Gay Rights

By ARI EZRA WALDMAN

130606-NSA-headquarters-tight-730aYou don't have to be a libertarian to get angry at the jaw-dropping revelations that the American intelligence apparatus has been mining data from various U.S. Internet companies. Many of us are aware that private and public entities know quite a bit about us; data mining, after all, is how the Google banner, Amazon book recommendations, and Facebook sidebar ads work. But few -- outside those of us who study digital privacy -- realized the scope of the NSA's reach. 

The government's intelligence gathering program -- called PRISM -- is ostensibly trying to achieve the worthy goal of preventing terror attacks. But the Kafka-esque bureaucracy it's creating could turn dangerous in the wrong hands. We've seen it before, during red scares that targeted Jews, blacks, gays, intellectuals, and other liberals; so let's not fall into the abyss of complacency by passing off the NSA's behavior as just something that makes us feel safer.

These kinds of privacy invasions have a less direct relationship to the gay community than raids of gay bars or anti-gay employment discrimination or bans on the freedom to marry. But even if it is true that the government only targeted foreigners abroad and did not discriminate on whose data it was gathering, the sweeping nature of NSA data gathering and this troubling example of the lag between our technology and our privacy protections should especially worry traditionally victimized groups.

Privacy law and the gay community have a long history. The explicit elucidation of a constitutional right to sexual privacy in the 1960s helped give us important precedents like the right to access contraception, the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to engage in private, consensual sex with someone of the same sex without being thrown in jail. Yet, over the years, our privacy has been invaded to stop the dissemination of gay-related political or cultural speech through the mail, to force us to disclose our memberships in community organizations that advanced gay rights, and to fire us from our jobs when our personal sexual orientation becomes known. 

Privacy is essential for the full realization of gay rights. Why? It's not because we need to hide who we are or hide our sexual conduct.

Let's discuss AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The NSA, Data Privacy, and Gay Rights" »


What Does Your Phone Company Have On You? - VIDEO

Spitz

What does your phone company have on you? Malte Spitz wanted to find out and received 35,830 lines of code -- "a detailed, nearly minute-by-minute account of half a year of his life."

Watch his TED Talk on self-determination in the digital age, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "What Does Your Phone Company Have On You? - VIDEO" »


NEWS: Google Spies, Cheney Betrays, Preacher Molests, Spielberg Loses: VIDEO

EvilTowleroad-roadicon In a week, Google will begin to store records of all your Googlings. Here's how to clear your Google records before it happens.

Towleroad-roadicon The Family Research Council is angry with Dick Cheney for supporting marriage equality. Apparently his duty should be to them, not his daughter:

In 2000, Dick Cheney might have considered Philadelphia’s most famous son, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s own son was the royal Governor of New Jersey. It was a patronage job Ben had secured for him. When his son remained loyal to the Crown, Benjamin Franklin did not refuse to sign the Declaration of Independence citing a “personal situation.” That’s one of the many reasons why we remember Ben Franklin with admiration and respect.

Dick Cheney is said to be worth hundreds of millions. His family may not suffer the devastation that comes from the breakdown of marriage. But in his recent book, Coming Apart, Charles Murray shows how the loss of marriage for the white working class in America has already had catastrophic consequences. If we seek the reason behind the great disparities in wealth that the Occupy crowd is howling about, we need look no further than the collapse of marriage. In this great cultural clash, Dick Cheney has enlisted with the forces of dissolution.

Towleroad-roadicon Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire calls Obama the "inspiration" for Washington marriage equality:

"I think we probably have succeeded as much as we have because of his leadership. He's used the bully pulpit," Gregoire said at the White House Friday. "He's been the inspiration that allowed the state of Washington recognize that we need to have equality."

"It's because of what he's been able to do that I actually think in large part we were able to achieve what we did. So I don't criticize. To the contrary, I thank the president for his leadership on GLBT issues," she told reporters after a meeting between Obama and Democratic governors.

Towleroad-roadicon Once again, Rick Santorum's old utterances make news:

In remarks last year at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., Santorum had told the crowd of J.F.K.’s famous 1960 address [on the separation of church and state] to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.”

TellerTowleroad-roadicon Fez of The Ron and Fez Show comes out.

Towleroad-roadicon Lucy Lawless arrested in oil ship protest.

Towleroad-roadicon Six simple animations explain the basics of critical thought.

Towleroad-roadicon Teller: What magicians and neuroscientists do and do npt have in common.

Towleroad-roadicon A preacher plead guilty to "lewd conduct" and "lewd molestation," and is no longer allowed to interact with minors. So the church where he preaches did the honorable thing: It banned kids.

Towleroad-roadicon Identified: The remains of the last unaccounted-for service member in Iraq. He was a translator:

The remains of Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, who was 41 when militiamen seized him on Oct. 23, 2006, were positively identified at the military's mortuary in Dover, Del., the Army said in a statement released Sunday. Army officials said they had no further details about the circumstances surrounding his death or the discovery of his remains.

Towleroad-roadicon (Reading this makes me remember a bone-chilling feature by George Packer about the difficulties faced by Iraqi translators during the war. Definitely one of last decade's best pieces of journalism. It was called "Betrayed." If you haven't read it, find it here.)

Towleroad-roadicon ... and if that depresses you, watch this full-screen, in HD if possible. Music, stars, and time. Beautiful.

Towleroad-roadicon It's Oscar night. Your favorite films probably aren't nominated. The Academy is often crazy. AFTER THE JUMP, watch Steven Spielberg learn he's been snubbed for Jaws. 

Continue reading "NEWS: Google Spies, Cheney Betrays, Preacher Molests, Spielberg Loses: VIDEO" »


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