SecondLife named "Toysoldier Thor" account after my appeal of their decision
My SecondLife community of friends have asked me to tell me more about how I was able to successfully appeal Facebook's long-standing strict policy on "REAL NAMES ONLY" which has wiped out many 1000's of SecondLife named FB accounts over the years. This blog provides a background of my experience through this process, my thoughts as to why Facebook surprised everyone in our community and restored my SecondLife name, and some guidelines for other SecondLife resident considering if they should an appeal and how to appeal.
On June 1st 2014, after being very active for almost five years on Facebook (FB) under my account Toysoldier Thor (aka Toy), FB deleted my Toy account among 100's of others. This is a very frustrating action FB frequently executes against SecondLife® (SL) avatar named FB accounts as a policing action to enforce their outdated "Real Names Only" TOS policy. At that time I wrote a blog about this very disruptive frustrating practice, how it impacted me, and how FB needs to get with the times. As a result of my FB account deletion I created an account at AvatarSocialNetwork.com. I also created a new replacement FB account named SCOTT to use that FB found to be acceptable.
Sadly, having the SCOTT FB name was very limiting and frustrating for me as it is for many other SL residents who lost their SL avatar named FB accounts in these dreaded FB sweeps. Why? None of my SL friends knew this Scott name so they could not easily find me. Also, Scott had no relevance to the branding / identity of Toysoldier Thor - a name that ties to all I try to promote in my sphere of the virtual world community. Therefore, on two occasions during the past year I filed support tickets with FB community support to appeal their decision of deleting my Toy FB named account. In both cases I was 100% stonewalled - being quoted with canned FB policy statements and clearly not even reading details of my appeal on why my account should be restored.
On February 19th 2015, I was pointed a New World Notes blog about how Sister Roma - a famed and admired San Francisco Drag Queen who was pressuring FB to improve their rigid "real names only" policy was also willing to help SL residents to get their avatar named FB accounts back. I contacted her and provided her all my appeal details that I had unsuccessfully tried to show FB staff during my previous appeals. She was very supportive and saw how my case was yet another clear example of how FB's TOS was out of touch with the needs of its customers. She promised to forward my appeal through her channel into FB as a new case but made not promises it would succeed.
Over a month went by with no news from FB. Even Sister Roma and Wagner Au of NWN Blogs were very skeptical that I would win my appeal. Especially in light of a recent communication from FB that further clarified and made it extremely clear that Game Avatar names would not be acceptable.
Then on March 30th 2015, I received a brief FB posting from Facebook Community Operations (see image to the right - click to enlarge). It told me FB seemed to have made a mistake in suspending my account. They restored my account and the closed my case. AND they were so very sorry.
Initially I was confused and a bit nervous & excited since I received this posting while on my replacement FB Scott account. I thought maybe somehow they were planning to delete Scott for some reason, but no, I was on it so that couldn't be the reason. Then I went to see if they might have restored my Toysoldier Thor account they deleted last year, but it was still completely gone. So I just shrugged it off assuming FB just made a mistake posting this to me.
What I didn't realize until hours later when an SL friend pointed it out to me, FB actually transformed my active Scott FB account name to my original SecondLife avatar name "Toysoldier Thor" ! Almost a year after FB deleted my Toy account, FB fully restored my FB SL Toy name. They did NOT resurrect my old Toy account they deleted last year - thankfully. What they did was change my active SCOTT named account to the name Toysoldier Thor. As such I did not lose ANY of my almost 500 friends that I rebuilt under the SCOTT name over the past year. Therefore, all my current friend list in FB instantly now saw me at Toy again!
HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE - AGAINST FB's CLEAR REAL NAMES ONLY POLICY?
Many of you are asking .... HOW THE HECK DID TOY DO THIS ?? Considering FB's outdated TOS policy has been very clear and made even more clear that game character names like SL names are not allowed. And considering FB has a very well known strict history of actively policing this dreaded policy and wiping out several 1000's of SL named accounts over the years. Even though - thanks to the intense pressure against FB last year by communities like the Drag Queens / LGBT headed up by Sister Roma - FB looked like they were beginning to softening their stance, to date their actions have not matched their stated promises. In fact recently it appears they have been more entrenched on the old policy.
I want to first tell everyone that I personally DO NOT EXACTLY KNOW the actual reasons why FB decided to restore my SL Avatar name on my FB account. But based on my understanding of FB's policy and all the FB statements that have appeared because of recent intense pressure spearheaded by Sister Roma and the Drag Queen community to change this outdated policy, I have a good idea of why FB might have restored my Toy FB name.
I believe the primary reason was that I extensively proved to FB in my appeal that my name TOYSOLDIER THOR is not just a SL Avatar / game character name. Luckily for me, over the past several years I have used my "Toysoldier Thor" avatar name as my common online identity and even my BRAND NAME throughout my growing existence in the virtual world and respective online communities. Over the past 7 years whenever I joined a new online community / website / service, I created using Toysoldier Thor.
As such, my appeal to FB that Sister Roma took forward to them included an extensive list of "Toysoldier" identities as evidence that Toysoldier is a very strong wide-reaching common identity known by a very large sphere of communities that I participate and am known by. In other words a very significant portion of those that know me, know me only as my identity of Toysoldier Thor - not my legal real life name.
I logged into fourteen of these online services / sites that uses my Toy account name and I did a screen shot showing my account name on that site / service. I attached all of these screen shots to my appeal. To the right you can see all the screen shots I sent to FB as evidence of Toysoldier Thor's existence FAR beyond the scope of the SL grid.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a legal or trademark expert. As such I am not advising any of you should consider trademarking your names like I did. It is what I did for me based on my research. If you are interested in this idea, do your own research and consider seeking professional advise before deciding if this is a good idea for you!
I am not sure where Sister Roma forwarded my appeal within FB but it was clear that my appeal was treated with respect / attention and the present facts were consider by FB staff that could actually make FB policy interpretation decisions. This is not something that the general front-line FB support staff can do nor even escalate up when received.
So THANK YOU SISTER ROMA!
As you can see, it is highly unlikely that FB restored my SL named FB account and went against their very rigid "real names only" policy simply because the right person in FB was asked. The conditions / situation was right in my case for FB to justify that my SL name could be returned as my main FB account name (without the use of a sub page or using a nickname) because I provided enough overwhelming evidence that my "Toysoldier Thor" identity was not violation of the spirit of their current policy.
So now many of you are asking if it is possible that you could strike up an appeal and follow the same steps as I did to get your SL Avatar name back as your FB account name. Likely after reading what you have so far, 90% of you have already decided that sadly for you an appeal would likely be waste of effort and a "No Joy" result. Why? Because I suspect that most of you that were considering it only use your SL Avatar name for SL and maybe one or two other sites / grids / services.
But regardless, let me offer a few guidelines for you to consider before deciding to follow the same appeal process with FB in hopes of getting your SL avatar name restored. A few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you like having a FB account that uses your Real Life name and do not have any issues using your real life identity for your SL community of friends as well? If so, no need to appeal for your SL avatar name in FB.
- If you do happen to maintain two FB accounts (one for your RL world of friends and another used only for SL), do you want to potentially risk losing one or the other if FB discovers it and decides to delete one of your two? If that risk is too great then think carefully about filing an appeal since you would provide enough details that they might discover your other account.
- Important one.... How many places is your SL avatar name used for other website or online community accounts? i.e. blog sites you run, twitter, google+, flickr, skype, fb, instagram, art sites, music sites, etc. etc. etc.? The less instance of your name being used outside the SL grid, the weaker your case will be to convince FB to restore your name. If its ONLY used in SL, then I would say filing an appeal with FB would be a waste of time since FB staff don't have any argument to show that in your situation your SL name is not a violation of a FB policy.
- Is your SL avatar name used outside SL as a well recognized / strongly promoted RL stage name, pen name, author, celebrity name, etc.? If the world outside SL knows your SL avatar name as your identity in these communities then you have a strong case to appeal.
- You must have a FB account that was reported, suspended, deleted for them to review as an appeal.
IF YOU DECIDE TO APPEAL FB TO RESTORE YOUR SL NAME - WHAT NEXT?
So, after reading all this you have decided you have a strong case to appeal FB to restore your SL name as your primary FB account name. What should you do next? Well I can tell you that Sister Roma has told me that she would be willing to forward to FB any appeals sent to her from any of you that wish to appeal FB. What a generous offer by her! But, before you get to this step, there is some homework you must get done and data you must gather and write down that you will send to her.
As such, following are the steps to follow:
- Start researching and collecting all evidence that supports your cause that you - the real life account owning human - are very well known and recognized by your SL Avatar name in communities outside your SL virtual world. If your avatar name is register trademarked or exists in ANY legal form; If you are an Artist and exhibit your art / sell your art with your avatar name as the signature (like me) to the greater community; If you are a performing artist and your SL name is also your stage name in RL or other online music communities; if you are a poet / book writer and you sign your works by your SL name; if you are an active online blogger for a target audience much larger than SL; etc. etc. etc. Look hard for ALL EVIDENCE LIKE THIS.
- Capture all the evidence you found in step one into an electronic format... i.e. screen captures, photos of billboards, signed books, signatures on art, etc. What ever the evidence, get an image of it that can been attached. You will want to attach all this evidence to the FB APPEAL EMAIL you will create and send to Sister Roma. What I did was place all these images on a web page so I could simply include the URL link to all this evidence in the email. Kept my email smaller.
- Write an email to Sister Roma at Roma@theSisters.org and provide the following information in the email to her:
- An introduction who you are, why you emailing her (tell her it was mentioned to email her in this Toy blog)
- Provide your current profile name - the account URL (i.e. www.facebook.com/SisterRoma), and/or the email associated with your account
- Brief details of about experience with FB as to why they said your account was disabled
- Explain who you are as it relates to your SL name and provide all the collected evidence that could help FB evaluate why your account may have been inaccurately suspended or deleted. Explain why you believe your SL name would not violate the spirit of the current FB policy on real names only. Remember that your legal name may not be your "real" name. Your real name is the one you've chosen and live with each day. Your real name is the one that a very large portion of your sphere of communities knows you best as. In my case I proved to FB that even though I have a real life name used in my real life community by friends and family, I have an even large sphere of contacts world-wide that know me only as TOYSOLDIER THOR. Explain this in your email.
- Provide your authentic name (the name you go by in your real life and that you have used on Facebook) and as it should appear on your FB profile.
What you write in your email to Sister Roma is what she would consider forwarding over to the right people at FB for consideration. Sister Roma will likely respond to you that she received it and her thoughts and what she will do next. Then, at least in my case, expect to wait up to 6 - 8 weeks for a response from FB directly.
I will also conclude this blog with a CYA statement. Proceed with your appeal at your own risk. This blog just provides my experience, opinions, and some guidelines to consider IF you want to appeal FB. But ultimately it is 100% your decision to proceed with approaching FB and what ever outcomes happen as a result. I am NO EXPERT and have NO FORMAL INSIGHTS with anyone at FB or elsewhere. I have just blogged my personal experience and thoughts and opinions.
If you proceed - Good Luck to you!