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Facebook apologizes to LGBT community over ‘real’ name policy

In this Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, drag queens from left, Lil Ms. Hot Mess, Sister Roma and Heklina, take turns speaking about their battle with Facebook during a news conference at City Hall in San Francisco.

Eric Risberg/AP

Facebook Inc. has apologized to the LGBT community for attempting to force them to use their "real" names on the social media service – a newly enforced policy that has caused uproar in the past few weeks.

The world's largest social network has heard from people such as drag queens and kings, transgender people, musicians, and friends and family of those affected. They objected to the company's move to take away their choice over what name to use on their accounts.

The problem began when "an individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake," chief product officer Chris Cox explained in a post on Facebook. The company's real-name policy is intended to weed out those who use fake names while bullying others or sending out scams, among other activities. It requires that users whose accounts are reported fake, prove their identity with an ID card of some kind.

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For many transgender people and performers, however, their chosen names more closely reflect their identities, and in the case of performers the names are crucial to promoting themselves.

"We've ... come to understand how painful this has been," Mr. Cox wrote.

He added that the company needs to improve its process of authentication for users.

"The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life," Mr. Cox wrote. "For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess."

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