Facebook has always had a real names policy, where you agree that your profile name is “the name [you] go by in everyday life.” Obviously, you can type in a fake name, and you may get away with it for a while. But it isn’t allowed, and it can cause you trouble.
Facebook’s Real Name Policy
The entire foundation of Facebook is that it’s a site where real people interact with each other without hiding behind anonymous usernames and blank avatars. It’s why, despite Facebook’s many problems, they’ve never had the same level of abuse and trolling that Twitter and Reddit get. People still fight and argue about anything and everything, but at least they know that it’s their racist uncle they’re fighting with, and not SpottyTeenager64.
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Facebook’s real name policy is a big part of the reason they have a successful and profitable advertising business, while Twitter and Reddit struggle. Advertisers want to be able to target real people based on actual data about them; serving ads to anonymous users just isn’t any where near as efficient.
Facebook is pretty clear on what counts as a real name. It should be “the name that your friends call you in everyday life” and it should “also appear on [an official] ID.” Facebook even has a list of acceptable ID types, which includes things like passports and driving licences. Basically, if it’s not the name the government knows you by, it’s probably not going to fly with Facebook.
There are also a couple of other rules your name must abide by. It can’t include:
- Symbols, numbers, weird capitalization, and the like.
- A mix of characters from different languages.
- A title like Doctor or Father.
- Words that aren’t your name; for example, I couldn’t have “Majestic Harry Guinness” as mine, no matter how much I wanted it.
- Offensive or suggestive words.
You are allowed nicknames, if they’re “a variation of your authentic name.” The name on my birth certificate isn’t Harry, but Harry is a common affectionate form of it.
Can You Use a Fake Name on Facebook?
By now it should be pretty clear that Facebook really doesn’t like people using fake names, to the point that, if they suspect you are using one they’ll lock you out of your account and require you to send them a photo of your official ID to confirm that “Justin Pot” or “Cameron Summerson” or whatever other makey-upy name you’ve come up with is what your parents named you.
However, Facebook has over two billion active monthly users. That is a hell of a lot of people to police. Presumably, since Facebook loves algorithms, they use some automated tools to flag accounts that they think are using fake names. For example, if you change your name to something drastically different or add common dictionary words, it’s probably going to be reviewed by a human. But if you just change your surname, or perhaps go by your middle name instead, there is a good chance you’ll be able to get away with it. Certainly, I know plenty of people who’ve used believable fake names for years without any issue.
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On the other hand, we really can’t recommend you use a fake name. Not only does it violate Facebook’s Terms of Service, but it also makes the social network more annoying for everyone, including you. While anyone who knows me is likely to accept a friend request from “Harry Guinness,” there’s a good chance they’ll ignore “Garry Budweiser.” Similarly, when someone goes looking for your profile to send you a message, tag you in something, or just send you a friend request, they won’t be able to find you.
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If the reason you want to use a pseudonym is that it’s a stage or professional name, Facebook already has other options available. They recommend you set up a Facebook Page using your real account. You can then invite all your friends to like the page and handle anything related to your other persona through it.
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