Monday 19 March 2018

China blogger in Facebook name row

Mark Zuckerberg has set up a Facebook page for his dog Beast (AP)
Mark Zuckerberg has set up a Facebook page for his dog Beast (AP)

Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti said he wants to know why he is less worthy of a Facebook account than company founder Mark Zuckerberg's dog.

Mr Anti, a popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said his Facebook account was suddenly cancelled in January. Company officials told him by email that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms and that he must use the name issued on his government ID.

However, Mr Anti argues that his professional identity as Michael Anti has been established for more than a decade, with published articles and essays.

Mr Anti, a former journalist who has won fellowships at both Cambridge and Harvard universities, said he set up his Facebook account in 2007. By locking him out of his account, Facebook has cut him off from a network of more than 1,000 academic and professional contacts who know him by his professional name, he said.

"I'm really, really angry. I can't function using my Chinese name. Today, I found out that Zuckerberg's dog has a Facebook account. My journalistic work and academic work is more real than a dog," he said.

He said there is a long tradition in China for writers and journalists to take pen names, in part as protection from retaliation from authorities. If Facebook requires the use of real names, that could potentially put Chinese citizens in danger, he said.

"For my fellow Chinese, this policy could easily help Chinese police identify them," he said.

Dissidents in a variety of countries have argued that Facebook's policy can endanger human rights activists and others if their identities become known. Facebook says its policy leads to greater trust and accountability for its users.

It's not the first time Mr Anti has had problems with an internet site. In 2005, his blog on a Microsoft site was shut down by the company following pressure from Chinese officials. Microsoft's action led to a public outcry.

Mr Zuckerberg recently set up a Facebook page for his newly acquired puppy, Beast, complete with photos and a profile.

Press Association

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