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Facebook Accidentally Blocks Native Americans For Using 'Fake' Names

MENLO PARK (CBS SF) -- Native Americans say Facebook is locking them out of their accounts because the social media giant thinks their names are fake, according to Colorlines.

Dana Lone Hill explains in an essay that Facebook doubted the authenticity of her name, which originates from the Lakota Tribe. After Facebook sent her a message claiming her account was not her real name, she sent in multiple pieces of ID hoping to restore her 8-year-old account. A week later, Facebook sent her an email apology for suspending her account "by mistake."

Facebook normally requires users to log in with their "authentic name," which doesn't necessarily mean legal names. The 10-year-rule is in place to help root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech.

"We ask everyone to use the name they go by in real life so friends know who they are connecting with," Facebook says on its help page.

Lone Hill is among several Native Americans impacted by the unintended consequences of the rule.

"One friend was forced to change his name from his Cherokee alphabet to English," she wrote in the essay. "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."

On Columbus Day 2014, Facebook allegedly suspended a number of Native American accounts. Couple Jacqui and Shane Creepingbear, who are part of the Kiowa Tribe, took to Twitter to express their frustration.

Shane told Colorlines both of their accounts were eventually restored after they complained to friends who work in the tech industry.

A petition demanding Facebook change its policy toward Native Americans names already has already reached more than 10,000 signatures since it went online four months ago.

In a email to CBS SF, Facebook said it's providing more options to easily verify an authentic name, adding that "We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritize these improvements so everyone can be their authentic self on Facebook."

Facebook's real name policy incited outage among the LGBT community in September 2014 after performers and personalities – including San Francisco's 'Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence' – were locked out of their Facebook accounts because their real names did not match those on their online profile. Facebook restored the suspended profiles and issued an apology a month later.


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