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Drag Queens, LGBTQ Groups Are Back Protesting Facebook

The same group tried (unsuccessfully) to keep Facebook from marching in this month's Pride Parade in SF.

Tom Temprano/ Instagram

A group of San Francisco drag queens are (once again) taking issue with Facebook.

The #MyNameIs Coalition, a group of drag queens, burlesque performers and transgender people from the Bay Area, gathered outside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters Monday morning to protest the company’s “authentic name” policy, an extension of a similar protest that took place last fall.

The protestors — who gathered in front of Facebook’s iconic “thumbs up” sign somewhat ironically framed against a rainbow backdrop to celebrate Gay Pride month — say that Facebook blocks accounts of users who don’t use their real, legal names. Many Facebook users, the protestors argue, self-identify by stage names or pseudonyms, either because they’ve abandoned their legal name or, in some cases, for safety reasons.

This same group complained publicly to Facebook about the same issue in the fall, and product czar Chris Cox apologized for this policy back in October. It seemed as though the two sides were ready to move forward with a few changes in place. Not so fast, it turns out.

“People are still using the fake name reporting option as a way to target and maliciously bully people they find objectionable for whatever reason,” Sister Roma, a drag queen leading the coalition, told Re/code. “We were trying to get Facebook to understand that for the past nine months, and no significant changes were made. We’ve reached our breaking point.”

Facebook has made a few changes. It no longer requires users to sign up with their legal name and claims it never did — the language reads “authentic name” instead of “real name.” Facebook describes this as “the name [people] use in real life.”

But protestors claim that accounts are being reported and then blocked from Facebook despite this policy. Once a name is flagged as inappropriate, Facebook gives users a week to verify its legitimacy with some sort of confirmation, like a piece of mail, a magazine subscription or a library card.

A Facebook spokesperson directed Re/code to a post shared earlier on Monday highlighting some of the ways Facebook has changed its policy since the last set of protests in the fall. Included in the post was a note that Facebook stands by its “authentic name” requirement; this keeps people from bullying or impersonating others, the post read. (Twitter, on the other hand, has no such policy and has dealt with abuse from the get go.)

So what happens next? Sister Roma says she has no interest in meeting with Facebook as they did in the fall. “I am done working as a focus group for Facebook,” she said, adding that she has already had four separate meetings with the company in the past.

The #MyNameIs coalition also petitioned to keep Facebook from marching in this month’s Pride Parade in San Francisco; that effort was unsuccessful, Sister Roma said.

There’s one other company getting in on the action: Ello, the social network that grabbed a lot of headlines in the fall when it positioned itself as an ad-free alternative to Facebook.

Ello sponsored the buses that shuttled protestors to Facebook from San Francisco, and helped create the signage and banners used. Ello was a beneficiary of the initial protests in September since it doesn’t require an authentic identity (and has been vocal about that fact ever since).

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.