Obi-Wan Kenobi surely felt a disturbance in The Force today. Within the last 24 hours, Facebook purged hundreds of "fake" users from its social networking empire. Many geek girls and guys were caught in the crossfire- specifically, cosplayers.
"Cosplay" is short for "costume play." Cosplayers dress as characters from sci-fi, fantasy, video games, and more. These outfits are usually homemade, and worn to conventions where the effort is rewarded. Many cosplayers used alternate Facebook accounts to display their art... until now.
Users with the false last name "Cosplay" have been purged. Cosplayer Caleb A. lost "2 years' worth" of photos, memories, and friend connections. He isn't alone...
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?
- Facebook's last quarterly report revealed over 83 million fake profiles- 8.7% of users! Aside from 46m duplicate accounts, this number contained pets, businesses, advertisers, bots, fake celebs, straight up creepers... the list goes on.
- Fake accounts are generally bad. They throw off demographics, which throw off advertising, which throws off profit. Aliases can also be used for criminal purposes.
- Facebook's naming policy has been in the Terms of Service all along. I remember reading it when I first signed up in 2005. Today, the policy reads: "The name should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, Student ID, etc... Pretending to be anything or anyone is not allowed." This was not the first purge. Cosplayers weren't the only ones targeted.
- Facebook is a free service. It is neither a necessity nor a human right.
- Fan pages are still an option. Cosplayer Katherine J. prefers this route. She explains, "I think taking a day or two to back up the old personal account and resubmitting it to another type of page is a small price to pay in exchange for a tighter grip on some serious Facebook trolling."
THE COSPLAYERS' PERSPECTIVE:
- A cosplay account leaves the "real" account clean and professional. In extreme situations, cosplayers may be avoiding a disapproving boss, conservative parents, or even bullying. Says Caleb A., "Not everyone is pleased with our hobby and some frown upon it."
- Women, especially, get lots of attention for their outfits. Cosplayer Katie G. "was having issues with over-abundant friend requests from other cosplayers and strangers." Her cosplay account, which was disabled, allowed her to separate friends from fans. She's threatening to leave Facebook altogether.
- No individualized warnings were sent. "I feel like there should have been a more prominent notice," says Geek Girl Jess. Ron L., cosplay photographer, calls the shut-down rate "out of control."
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR ACCOUNT WAS PURGED?
- There's a petition going around, for starters.
-You can also call Facebook's public phone number: 650-543-4800. Leave a detailed message.
- Please, don't spread rumors. For example, the idea that Facebook wants to charge users to create fan pages is unconfirmed. Businesses can put down money to sponsor their posts, though. Make of that what you will.
- If you're absolutely addicted to Facebook, be aware that the purge isn't universal; aliases without "Cosplay" in them are still standing. Use this loophole at your own risk.
A lot of hard work was lost in one day- awful. I do think Facebook should be targeting more destructive and annoying fake accounts, or even inactive ones. I don't, however, support alternate accounts as a way to avoid certain people. I have one Facebook account. It's locked, and I don't allow access to strangers. I post cosplay pictures, but they are appropriate- things I wouldn't mind my grandma seeing. If I meet someone in passing and don't want them "stalking" me online, I ignore them altogether. I owe them nothing.
If the geek world learns one thing today, let it be this: always read the fine print before clicking "I Agree." It's up to us to know what we're signing off on, because let's be real here- Facebook hasn't been focused on user satisfaction... ever.
Here's my final rant: This shouldn't even be an issue. In an ideal world, employers wouldn't judge a candidate based on a costume. Bullies wouldn't prey upon those who dress differently. People wouldn't fret over their loved ones' sexual orientations or mental stability because of cosplay. Facebook's policies aside, the human race really needs to grow. Nobody should have to hide behind an alias in the first place. If you really want to fight this, pick one of these larger causes, and sound off!
I now open the discussion to you, readers. Should cosplayers get their accounts back? Is Facebook in the right? Post your insights below... and BE NICE!