Facebook’s New Rooms App Is a Step Backward

Facebook’s New Rooms App Is a Step Backward

Wesley MurchisonMonday,27 October 2014

The Snap:

Facebook’s long-rumored anonymity app has arrived, and it’s a throwback to the forums of the early Internet. The app called Rooms is currently only available on Apple’s iOS. It’s advertised as a way for you “to create places for the things you’re passionate about.” However, Facebook’s development of Rooms appears to be motivated by all the criticisms leveled against the lack of anonymity available in Facebook’s flagship social networking site.

The Download:

It’s no secret Facebook is against users hiding their identity. Their real-name policy has been in the news lately over its disproportionate impact on the drag queen community. Facebook claims the policy is meant to protect its members from harassment but has instead become a weapon for bullies.

According to Facebook, the size of the online community requires that members self-police. If a user is suspected of not complying with real-name policy, another user can report him or her. If the media reports are any indication, once a user’s profile has been flagged as a violation it is automatically locked or suspended until the users provides his or her legal name.

A user called “Faith_Machine” on Landoverbaptist.net’s self-hosted forum brags about his or her conquests in reporting various abusers of the real-name policy on Facebook.

“That these Pagans are so eager to hide behind fake names just proves they’re up to no good and they know it. I am having a ball with this Real Names policy: I have personally reported several dozen Pagans, drag queens, transexuals, Indians, and other weirdos who I know for a fact were using crazy made-up names,” wrote Faith_Machine.

The point behind the real-name policy, according to Facebook, is to foster trust and honesty and thereby reduce harassment. The logic is that the majority of harassment is caused by those hiding behind a fake name. But Facebook failed to consider or ignore the possibility that many people us a pseudonym to avoid harassment.

The Rooms app by Facebook might be the company’s only attempt at recognizing, or admitting, that the initial power of social media sites, prior to the creation of the real-name policy, was the ability of persecuted minorities to operate in a place all their own. But the reports about the apps features and benefits are at best a token gesture to critics of the real-name policy.

The new app has been described as a Reddit or Ning. Users can create different rooms and in each room use whatever name they choose. Once a name is created in a room, no other user can claim that name, however. The idea is that different groups of people can cluster around topics or group into social cliques based on shared interest. But when you consider the legitimate need of drags queens, pro wrestlers and even survivors of domestic abuse, Rooms is not a viable solution.

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Hat Tips:

Bits Blog, Rooms.me, Allfacebook, CNN, Image Credit: Flickr

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