Facebook removes Chinese activist for using English name

Facebook may have gone a step too far in trying to make an example.

The complaint against the company comes from a well-known Chinese commentator – Michael Anti – who has accused it of insulting him by closing his account. He hasn’t been reported for bullying or similar, it’s because he uses a pseudonym for a page he hosts.

The reason Facebook chose to close his account – it requires people to use their real names.

Born Zhao Jing, Anti has used the latter for over ten years and it’s not uncommon for Chinese people to use English alternatives. Chinese people often pick English names and use them for communicating with foreigners.

However, Facebook obviously has used this as an excuse to get his page closed down. 

“It’s insulting. They think my academic and journalistic work is less real than Zuckerberg’s dog?” he asked. “I have lost more than a thousand contacts overseas … It is part of my life.”

He added: “It’s deja vu, because in 2005 Microsoft removed my blog.”

“It’s not a ‘fake’ name, but a professional name in the English-speaking world … If the real name policy really applies in China, you will destroy the accounts of at least half the people. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Anti isn’t taking the decision lying down. He tried to cement his point by sending Facebook a certificate from Harvard University – where he completed a fellowship – as evidence that he was widely known by that name.

But Facebook wouldn’t budge. It told him he had to use the name on his government identity card.

Facebook told the Associated Press it does not comment on individual accounts, but said it believes a “real name culture” creates more accountability and a safer and more trusted environment.

This got anything to do with Zuckerberg’s recent trip to China?