My "Toysoldier Thor" Facebook
account was disabled
BY AN OLD COMPLETELY OUT-OF-TOUCH FACEBOOK POLICY
IT'S TIME FOR LINDEN LAB AND SECONDLIFE RESIDENTS TO DEMAND A CHANGE
FOR THE GOOD OF ALL - INCLUDING FACEBOOK THEMSELVES
Also, as has been the case with the vast majority of SL residents, it was and still is an imperative for me to maintain anonymity of my real life (RL) identity. My Toysoldier avatar name and avatar has his own existence in SL. More importantly, Toy interacts with the 1000's of my friends and acquaintances who only know me as Toysoldier Thor. If any of my countless friends and others in the SL community want to find me - they would NEVER EVER look for me nor even know my RL name.
Is this a situation unique only to the SL virtual world community? NOT BY A LONG SHOT! Think of the many other virtual world communities with avatars. Think of the countless MMOG gaming environments where players are only known by their game name. Think of the authors, bloggers, and artists that have established "Pen Names". Think of the RL individuals (such as women & children) that establish anonymous names on the Internet to protect themselves for personal security reasons.
When you add up all the people within each of these examples, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that any online social networking or online services business would be extremely foolish to NOT ACCOMMODATE wishes / requirements of this huge online user base. It would be a massive population to to ignore. And yet, ironically, this is exactly what the largest social media company on the Internet has been doing from its inception. Yes, FB has a very strict, short sighted, and crystal clear Terms of Service (TOS) policy that does not allow any of its potential Users from using any identity other than their real name that the Government has validated. Notice I did not say FB's customers as their customers are all the advertisers wanting their ads to be placed on all our user pages to be viewed and even clicked on. The more user pages and the more active a user page - the more revenue FB gains from its customers. Remember this for later.
I will get back to why this FB policy is so out of touch and slapping users in the face while hurting themselves. I first must point out that like the countless SL customers who have set up and spent countless hours to groom and establish heavily followed / viewed pages, I knew there was always a risk that one day the FB Real Name cops would eventually target me and shut down my account. I saw FB do their SL Avatar Witch Hunts taking down large batches of SL avatars over the years. Its one of FB's never-ending administrative battles since many SL avatars simply create a new account.
But this past weekend I was still shocked and devastated when they disabled my account and destroyed the massive time and effort I put into making my Toysoldier Thor account an extremely powerful and effective tool to promote my personal interests in SL as well as promote countless activities, events, milestones, and celebrations of my large community of SL friends (with over 500 followers and friends). It was the #1 way for me to know what was happening in SL. Toysoldier's FB account was also my voice to raise interest to important causes in the SL community. Sadly.... devastatingly.... its all gone.
Now lets talk about the reasons why its finally time to for FB policy makers to make changes that shuts down this discriminating and self-damaging policy. Its very clear how this FB policy hurts a large population of the online community, but why does it also hurt FB and not make sense for them?
- Remember again who is the FB customer that is generating the bulk of their revenue? All those advertisers that pay for their ads to be strategically placed on all our User FB pages. Like most other ad revenue sites, FB generates more revenue when there are more page views / activities. The busier and more popular a User page - the more ads being viewed and potentially clicked on. It doesn't matter to the advertiser if the ad on a User page is a real name or an avatar name - the relevant ads will be placed on our pages when viewed by real humans - regardless of the name. So why would FB want to shut down all these FB User pages simply because they are not a real name?
- Lets go one step further on this. I will use me as an example. I violated two FB policies. The other policy is that I actually had two FB accounts. One was my Toy account. The other is my RL named account for my RL family and friends. My Toy FB account had 500 followers / friends and about 100 to 200 views / activities. My RL account has a couple dozen friends and I log into it once every few weeks. FB has shut down my Toy account. Guess which of the two accounts is most valuable for FB to generate ad revenue? YUP, my Toy account.
- Lets mention another mis-aligned logic in FB's real names only policy. Recently Mark Z. of FB decided to spend over $2 Billion to acquire the Oculus Rift technology. The Rift is clearly an virtual reality (VR) tool best designed for virtual worlds like SecondLife and MMOG's. One of the clearly primary target markets for FB's new expensive Rift technology will be virtual worlds like SL. If so, why would Mark Z. maintain a policy that discriminates against the actual user bases of these target markets? Seems like FB's "real names only" TOS policy is in conflict with their latest Rift acquisition.
- Finally, think how much wasted effort FB's Real Name Witch Hunters have to expend to find, shut down, and then go through the process of the appeals and debates and efforts from each user that fights the shut down. Not to mention finding many of these same TOS violators later as most of them have created another account - again in violation of their TOS. Imagine if FB changed its policy and allowed non real named accounts. How much staffing effort on administration could be spent time doing better more useful things??
So why should Ebbe Altberg, CEO of LL want to lobby Mark Z. and FB on behalf of all SL's residents to address this FB policy or work with FB to come up with a solution that fairly ends this discrimination?
- Lets remember that on a few occasions - even recently - LL has tried to integrate FB's service with SL's service. In fact, even though LL very well knew of FB's TOS against avatar names being used, they still released a new feature in the viewer code that allowed SL residents to post directly from inworld to their respective FB account. When Firestorm later released the feature, it didn't take long for the spike of activity from SL into FB to be noticed and countless SL resident SL FB accounts were disabled by FB for those that used the feature. IF Ebbe could negotiate a solution with FB to remove this policy, LL could return this feature and actually start integrating into FB with no guilt or risk of angering their own customers.
- Secondly, SL has a set of utterly useless social networking tool inworld to allow effective inter-communication / promotion of SL activities, events, happenings, and Avatar promotion to occur. Their Avatar profiles site is barely used as well since it pales in comparison to the features and capabilities and performance of FB. Solving this major roadblock by formally outsourcing this external social network to FB would safely allow LL to promote the use of FB to promote SL's inworld activities and make SL more enjoyable which retains and attracts more SL accounts.
So if ending this FB "real names only" policy benefits all, what are a few solutions that Ebbe and Mark could discuss to fix the problem and benefit ALL?
- The first idea may seem the most obvious solution but has as issue. That would be for FB to simply change the policy that allows any new FB user to create any account they want using what ever name they want. Problem solved - right? Well not exactly. FB would know accept the result - one that is similar to the problem that faces LL now. FB would likely get an onslaught of ALT and BOT FB accounts owned by the same users. FB would not accept this solution.
- So FB could come up with a new technical solution that allows control freedom for FB users to created a couple or three visible FB User Pages but no more. How? FB would require all users to register as a REAL LIFE user with a validated credential and then keep this validated account information internal only to them. Then each of these registered accounts would be allowed to create no more than three independent and full featured User Page profiles. One of the three accounts must be a real name user page - which would be used by the user to maintain the users main account. The other two User Pages would only be counters to the first but in ON WAY could anyone else ever find out who the real life user is to these other two accounts. This solution would require FB development - maybe even extensive. So maybe FB would not be interested in all this effort to solve the problem. The long term would be good for FB.
- The third option is one I personally think would be the best solution for everyone and the quickest to deploy. This would be for FB to create a new special instance of FB specifically deployed to service the VIRTUAL WORLD communities. They could brand this as FACEBOOK-VW or VW-FACBOOK. Since FB already has agreed after all these years that they were not interested in their main FB service to service non real name accounts, they should not care when a large populous of online users from the VW, MMOG, Pen Named people, etc. would use this new instance. LL would be able to promote the use of FACEBOOK-VW for their users to register onto and use. Advertisers would still be very interested in posting ads to this new and more specific base of users on this instance. AND... SL residents as well as so many others would have a FB service that maintains their privacy.
NOW A CALL TO ACTION FOR EBBE ALTBERG, LINDEN LAB, AND ALL VIRTUAL WORLD USERS THAT WANT TO SEE FACEBOOK FIX THIS OUT OF TOUCH POLICY.....
Share this blog post on twitter, facebook, inworld, or any other way. Post your own Twitter tweets, write your own blogs, email, IM, and talk about this topic to Ebbe, LL decision makers, Mark Z., FB decision makers, or anyone else that can influence Mark Z. and the FB architectures / decision makers to address this problem.
We need this topic addressed for all our benefits.
What are your thoughts?