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We seek to better understand these challenges by exploring how Facebook’s construction of “authenticity” works to exclude marginalized groups and non-normative identities.
In this sense, we view these cases — in particular, trans users and abuse survivors — not as edge or exceptional cases, but as an unavoidable consequence of users with multifaceted, changing, or non-normative identities engaging a system that enforces an administrative and largely inflexible notion of “real names.” We approach Facebook’s conception and enforcement of authenticity in two ways: 1) a content analysis using data from , 2015) coupled with a review of Facebook’s real name policy.
Facebook users, in particular, are told to use “authentic identities,” an idea reinforced throughout the site’s documentation, “real name” and other policies, and in public statements by company representatives.
Moreover, Facebook actively positions itself as a kind of online identity registrar  — a “core social infrastructure” for the Web where users express their authentic “real selves” (Idea to Product Latin America, 2009).
In line with this positioning, Facebook has sought (in different ways and at different times) to enforce a “real name” policy, requiring people to use “the name they use in real life” , verified by reference to acceptable identity documents .
The first approach allows us to articulate the ways Facebook’s founder and CEO has discussed issues of authenticity and realness as they relate to user identities; the second affords an analysis of the platform’s mechanisms for enforcing authenticity through site policy and design.
Ultimately, this combination allows for a critical discussion of how Facebook’s construction of authenticity works to exclude certain people — including, trans people and abuse survivors — and opens up vital questions regarding the ethics and consequences of online identity enforcement.Online identity, authenticity, and Facebook’s real name problem Debates surrounding the “realness” of online lives and personae have been present since the earliest days of the World Wide Web.