Facebook Asks Users to Remove Special Characters and Multiple Languages From Their Names

Facebook is asking users with special characters such as ♥, ☮, and Ⓥ, or multiple languages in their names to only use regular characters and one language. Users with these irregular names are seeing a prompt on the home page explaining that the change is “to help reduce spam and increase authenticity in the Facebook community”. However, many users claim the symbols are a part of their identity and are refusing to change their names.

Some users are reporting that Facebook is disabling Chat and their new feed until they comply with the request, though this is unverified.

When users with special characters or multiple languages in their names log into Facebook, at the top of the news feed they see a “Please Update Your Name on Facebook” prompt. It asks them to remove the special characters, or use the Alternate Name field to list their name in a second language. The prompt includes a button leading to the name change panel within Account->Account Settings->Settings.

Those attempting to change their name will also see warnings about these new rules. Those changing their names too frequently may be prevented from making further name changes.

The name change request has angered some users, especially those using a symbol to denote their affiliation with certain life philosophies. The Ⓥ symbol can represent veganism or voluntaryism, and some have responded to the request with posts such as “[The Ⓥ symbol] is who and what we are. You wanted authenticity right?…therefore the vegan symbol is as ‘authentic’ as you can get”.

Facebook may be looking to power authenticated online identity systems, but this would require further limitations on expression. While users opted into Facebook’s standardized profile views from the beginning, changes to existing features and practices like the recent elimination of profile boxes, the upcoming removal of third-party profile tabs and this regulation of irregular names can generate ill will. Facebook will need to be cautious as they release new features to ensure it doesn’t offer users options they might get attached to, only to roll them back later.

[Thanks to Stewart Stepanski Ⓥ for the screen shot of the prompt.]