Facebook's Real Name Policy and the Taliban Crackdown
Last summer, Joe Biden unilaterally ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, casting doubts on the ability of US intelligence to anticipate developments. The speed of the Taliban takeover wreaked havoc due to insufficient means of evacuation for Afghans wishing to escape the Taliban crackdown. Some media then oddly praised Facebook's decision to allow them to lock their accounts.
Facebook was then portrayed as helping Afghans to protect their accounts. Which is quite surprising since it was from the start Facebook that put the lives of these Afghans in danger: mimicry or cluelessness, hardly any article mentioned the real name policy unilaterally imposed by Facebook on its billions users, even though this policy has been denounced for ten years.
What the US debacle in Afghanistan has highlighted is that Facebook's policy can endanger the lives of users, and that to date, no legislation has prohibited this Big Tech from imposing rules that can threaten the lives of its users.
This is the case, for example, in France, where the Mila affair has led the French government to become aware of the vital risk generated by the identification of users on social media. Threatened with death on social networks, where she was identified and located, this teenager girl had to leave her school, and now lives under police protection.
Marlène Schiappa, the French Minister in charge of citizenship reacted to this case by affirming the need for everyone to have the right to use a pseudonym on social media. The Minister regreted that the authors of the threats cannot be identified because of the use of VPNs. But this reasoning is based on a logic of repression, whereas if the law prohibited the prohibition of pseudonymity by Big Techs in the first place, users would not be in danger. In any case, ten months after the declarations of the French Minister, despite the risk has been identified, the French lawmakers have taken no measures to grant the right to pseudonymity in France.
Journalists are among the first to be threatened by the real name policy imposed by Mark Zuckerberg's sister. However, this policy is plainly dangerous, particularly in Africa where the lives of journalists may be threatened: In the Central African Republic, three Russian journalists were killed on a track during a coverage on the actions of the Prigozhin conglomerate and Wagner's mercenaries in Central African Republic. To date, the perpetrators of these murders have not been identified. More recently in Komanda, in eastern DRC, it was the house of a journalist working for Tuendelee radio and bunia-info24.com that was set on fire by the ADF, the central Africa branch of Daesh.
While Facebook commercially exploits the exchange of ideas and information between billions of people all over the world, its executives have not bothered to take an interest in the real situations of users in their countries, which constitutes an epistemic deficit, or they did it but did not take it into account, which in this case constitutes a teleological degeneracy and an ethical deficit.
In addition, the prohibition of pseudonymity has another consequence: the chilling effect, since users aware of the risk will prefer to refrain from expressing themselves. Facebook's policy therefore undermines freedom of expression. Which illustrates the phenomenon of risk transduction.
In any case, the nature and scope of these risks suggests the need for a global intervention by lawmakers in order to prohibit Facebook in particular, and Big Techs in general, from banning pseudonymity.
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