Mark Zuckerberg Addresses Facebook’s Real-Name Policy

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his take on the social network’s sometimes-controversial real-name policy during a question-and-answer session on his page Tuesday.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his take on the social network’s sometimes-controversial real-name policy during a question-and-answer session on his page Tuesday.

User Alex Kantrowitz asked Zuckerberg:

You made a tool to let everyone put rainbow flags over their profile pictures, but you also insist on having people use their real names on Facebook. Many people in the trans community consider this discriminatory and even argue that it puts their lives at risk. Are you going to end the practice?

Zuckerberg responded:

This is an important question. Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.

First, it helps keep people safe. We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively toward other members of our community when they’re using their real names. There are plenty of cases–for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband–where preventing the ex-husband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important. As long as he’s using his real name, she can easily block him.

Second, real names help make the service easier to use. People use Facebook to look up friends and people they meet all the time. This is easy because you can just type their name into search and find them. This becomes much harder if people don’t use their real names.

That said, there is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community. We are working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.

Zuckerberg also “welcomed” some celebrity guests to Tuesday’s Q&A: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Hawking and Arianna Huffington.

Schwarzenegger asked Zuckerberg how he finds the time to exercise, and if the machines will win, and the answer was:

Staying in shape is very important. Doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you’re fit.

I make sure I work out at least three times a week—usually first thing when I wake up. I also try to take my dog running whenever I can, which has the added bonus of being hilarious because that is basically like seeing a mop run.

And no, the machines don’t win 🙂

Hawking asked which big question in science Zuckerberg would like to know the answer to, and he replied:

That’s a pretty good one! I’m most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work, and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more? I’m also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is.

And in response to Huffington’s question about how digital publishing will evolve in the next few years and Facebook’s role, he wrote:

I think there will be a couple of trends towards richness and speed/frequency. On richness, we’re seeing more and more rich content online. Instead of just text and photos, we’re now seeing more and more videos. This will continue into the future, and we’ll see more immersive content like virtual reality. For now though, making sure news organizations are delivering increasingly rich content is important and it’s what people want. On speed/frequency, traditional news is thoroughly vetted, but this model has a hard time keeping us with important things happening constantly. There’s an important place for news organizations that can deliver smaller bits of news faster and more frequently in pieces. This won’t replace the longer and more researched work, and I’m not sure anyone has fully nailed this yet.

Zuckerberg also discussed VR while answering a question from user Marcel Rukeltukel about the future of Facebook:

First, people are gaining the power to share in richer and richer ways. We used to just share in text, and now we post mainly with photos. In the future, video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR will become the norm. And after that, we’ll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we’d like.

Second, people are gaining the power to communicate more frequently. We used to have to be with someone in person. Then we had these bulky computers at our desks or that we could carry around. Now we have these incredible devices in our pockets all the time, but we only use them periodically throughout the day. In the future, we’ll have AR (augmented reality) and other devices that we can wear almost all the time to improve our experience and communication.

One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you’d like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.

Finally, on a humorous note, user Miller Savetz asked about one of Facebook’s least popular features, poking, and Zuckerberg issued a Richard Nixon-like response:

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Readers: What would you like to ask Zuckerberg?

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