Thursday 19 September 2019

'Why is she getting singled out?' - Facebook bans Irish girl's account after saying her name is a racial slur

Gypsy Robinson with her mother Hazel.
Photo: Hazel Robinson
Gypsy Robinson with her mother Hazel. Photo: Hazel Robinson
Facebook. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

A mother is pleading with Facebook to reactivate her daughter's profile after banning it because her name - Gypsy - was deemed to be a racial slur.

Hazel Robinson, from Co Longford, said that she has done everything possible to enable her teenage daughter to use her real name on Facebook, but after her profile was removed from the social media site, all of her posts and photographs were "lost in cyberspace".

Despite following Facebook protocol and uploading her birth certificate and other forms of identification, the social media giant failed to reactivate 17-year-old Gypsy's account, which Ms Robinson said held great sentimental value.

Gypsy has been told her if she is to rejoin Facebook she will have to use her middle name - Ann.

According to her mother, Facebook told Gypsy that her name was fake and informed her that it was against "community standards".

"My daughter's name is Gypsy Robinson. Everybody knows her as Gypsy. It's on her passport, it's on her birth cert, it's her actual name," Ms Robinson said.

"Why is she getting singled out? I don't understand, I really don't understand. And why is her name against their community policies?

"What is wrong with the name being used as a name? Is it political correctness? Is that what it's boiling down to? Because a small few people on social media have replied that they view it as a racial slur.

"She's really annoyed over it. None of her friend's know Gypsy as Ann Robinson. She's Gypsy, that's her name. So, what they have done with my daughter is that they have said, 'we have the documentation that your name is Gypsy but it goes against our community standards'.

"I would love answers from Facebook as to why her name is going against community standards."

Her daughter is being told that her name is a racial slur and that it is not appropriate for community standards, despite Ms Robinson saying it has a sentimental meaning.

Gypsy was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at birth and had to travel to different hospitals immediately. Having heard the name Gypsy on television and finding it to mean wanderer, Hazel thought that the name reflected to journey that her daughter would go on in life, from moment she was born.

"Gypsy was born really sick with CF. Every mother thinks they're going to have their perfect little baby and you have the house ready to bring them home.

"But with Gypsy that didn't happen and she went straight to Crumlin. When I looked up the meaning of Gypsy, it meant wanderer and I thought that that was a fitting name for her because straight away when she was born she was wandering and with her being diagnosed, there was meaning to it.

"I don't see it as a racial slur, I view it as a name. I have never viewed it as a racial slur. I heard the name years ago on Home and Away and I thought it was a beautiful name."

Understanding that the condition reduces the life expectancy of its sufferers, Hazel used Facebook as a way to store memories, in case of a time without her daughter. When her Facebook page was irrevocably removed, those memories, she says, were lost.

"She had a page for five or six years and obviously through that time she had her stories and their memories and all of her pictures and holidays.

"Our family and close friends are taking it so personally hard because, she's 17 now. Over the years we've seen people of young ages passing away with CF. When she was born we were given as life expectancy for her of anything between two and 30.

"So, when she grows up and when we are taking these little trips and putting up the photos or having a personal joke on social media, it is like a diary of her life.

"Other people have had people pass away and they treasure that. They treasure the memories and the photos and all of that sort of thing on social media. I feel so upset because I feel like we have lost all of that into cyberspace because of something so stupid as to single out a teenage girl because of her name being Gypsy."

According to her mother, Gypsy has seen significant improvements to her health recently. Having moved from the Orkambi drug, which was helping to a certain degree with her CF, she has been using a new drug for several months which has seen her lung function increase from 50pc to 70pc and her visits to hospital reduced from once every three weeks to once every six weeks.

Hazel hopes that her battle will follow a similar course as that of the Effin village near Charlesville, whose name was deemed too 'offensive' by Facebook to be registered as a homeplace. After a plea spanning months, and an invite for founder Mark Zuckerberg to the tiny village, the name was validated.

Independent.ie has contact Facebook for comment.

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