When nearly half of all Internet users are on Facebook, it presents an interesting contrast to state based real name systems as a transnational network that has been able to implement their identity verification policy successfully, particularly given their massive scope.
According to research on American usage, “the ability to create and maintain relationships is the main benefit of Facebook” (Caralingo, 2013, para. 40). To build trust and preserve a network based on these relationships, Facebook has to ensure that private information is secure and that online identities are genuine, so as not to leave people open to fraud, abuse, extortion or any of the other risks that are heightened by losing the security of face-to-face communication.
Users of Facebook have to give their name as it appears on their identity documents e.g. credit card or birth certificate. The success they have had with naturalizing this process, as opposed to the difficulty South Korea has faced in doing it is partly because “socially driven media like Facebook will generally have an easier time getting users to comply with real name policies than content-driven platforms like micro blogs” (Caralingo, 2013, para. 42). As I explored in my previous post, those concerned with social applications less highly prize their anonymity as it is less likely to be relevant to their activities, where as on micro blogs “weeding out anonymity can negatively affect content in the eyes of netizens” (Caralingo, 2013, para. 44)
Its real name requirement sometimes puts Facebook at odds with activists who want to maintain their anonymity and mostly Facebook responds by removing pages to ensure the authority of its own rules are not undermined. Service providers help citizens avoid government surveillance by resisting influence on censorship and other sensitive issues to avoid losing market share. But what Facebook shows us is that these companies implement the same policies as governments and are more successful at doing it.
And like governments, social media service providers do not employ these methods only to restrict libel and other types of proscribed speech they use it to enhance their business model. The information amassed by Facebook gives the company the ability to micro target advertising and is the way in which the can monetize their service (Caralingo, 2013, para. 41).
Even so as Caralingo argues, it hasn’t changed the fact that Facebook remains a forum for activism in political contexts across the globe” and is a space for “social interaction, personal identity, and network building” (para. 49).
As Caralingo argues: “Information spreads faster and farther then ever before due to the global expansion of online social media. An online mirror of social interaction, personal identity, and network building” has created more opportunities for expression (Caralingo, 2013, para. 50).