Facebook will allow people to use fake names for safety

Facebook has made a U-turn on its policy of everyone being forced to use genuine names on its social network.

In special circumstances, those who need to protect their identities will be able to apply for a second identity, which will be displayed instead of their real name.

Facebook explained the reasoning behind this switch is it wants to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their identity when opening a new account and the company also wants to make it easier for people to verify their identity or specify any special conditions that may mean they have to use an alternative moniker if someone reports them as using a fake name.

The company's Justin Osofsky, vice president of Global Operations, and Todd Gage, product manager wrote in a blog post: "People can let us know they have a special circumstance, and then give us more information about their unique situation. This additional information will help our review teams better understand the situation so they can provide more personalised support."

Other Facebook users can still report those they understand to be using a fake name, but they will need to provide more detailed information so Facebook can then approach the account owner in a more sensitive manner.

"When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they say," the post explained. "It also makes it harder for bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behavior."

Facebook said it is testing these tools in the US at the moment and will roll them out worldwide if they prove useful. Next year, it will be developing more tools around identity verification to make it easier for people to confirm they are who they say they are.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.