Has Facebook banned the use of religious titles? NO, it hasn’t. Here’s why, and how to use yours!

Screenshot 2015-01-30 16.59.39 (c)This morning a Change.org petition started doing the rounds among my Facebook friends which seemed to suggest that Facebook had created a “law” that stops religious leaders (implying in particular, Christian ones), from using their appropriate title. The warning was that if you tried to use your “Rev’d” “Father” or similar title, Facebook would stop you accessing your account.

I was less than convinced that this was true, so I didn’t sign, but I was concerned about the issue, so I messaged my friend Alec Muffett, who is a computing security guru and importantly, works for Facebook. I asked him what Facebook really do. This is what I discovered:

This story appeared a couple of days ago, after a Rev’d Fr was locked out of his Facebook account. The Change.org petition appears to relate to it, although a different petition is mentioned in the article.

Now, I have a second Facebook account, set up last year when I was ordained, so that my social media relationships with parishioners are separate to those I have with long-standing friends. It’s a boundaries thing, something that lots of us are warned about before we’re ordained. I had, in common with the clergymen in the above article, resorted to using Rev’d in the ‘first name’ box when setting it up, so it read “Rev’d Rachel” and it showed up as “Rev’d Rachel Hartland”. I didn’t really want to have this account blocked, which is why I was interested to find out the truth.

Facebook’s policy is in fact that they simply don’t want anyone using ‘honorifics’ as their known name whether born of employment, ordination, good works or anything else. To quote my friend, “It is not a religious prohibition its a general policy.” The rule would apply to a Knight of the Realm as much as a humble curate!

But before we still jump up and down saying we really, really want to use our legally acquired title on Facebook, however gained, the answer is – we can. There is a place provided for ‘other names’ in part of our profile set up, and it then shows up on our profile.

Alec kindly told me about how to put my “Rev’d” on the appropriate Facebook account, and I’ll put the instructions below, but first I think we need to remember something important if we want to use Facebook appropriately in ministry, with boundaries that protect us, whilst making it clear the capacity in which we’re using an account for the protection of others:

Facebook want to keep people safe by getting them to use their real names, rather than hiding under pseudonyms. It’s for our security, not theirs, and it will help Facebook stop the more dangerous uses of pseudonyms (e.g. for stalking people online) if we respect and encourage their ability to stop people accessing accounts that do not use people’s real names. So, we need to use, and promote, the means by which Facebook have enabled us to honour our calling, and be careful not to assume that social media providers haven’t thought through their policies carefully. There may well be room for improvement, but that goes for ministers as well, and there will be a greater respect on both sides if we try to check things out first, where possible, and abide by the guidance they give. It also means double checking the reasons for petitions it might be suggested we sign up to.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 13.12.49 (c)

This is what we shouldn’t do!

So, the how to get “Rev’d” on Facebook guide (other titles can be used):

  • Use the little arrow of drop down boxes (top right of your Facebook page) to go to ‘Settings’
  • Where it says ‘Name’ use the ‘Edit’ button on the right
  • Assuming you’ve not ‘changed’ your name in the last 60 days (Alec, this I think is the bit Facebook could do with reducing, though I suspect it’s there for security too), take out any title you’ve put in a ‘First’, ‘Middle’ or ‘Last name’ box, but leave in your actual name – then ‘Save Changes’Screenshot 2015-01-30 13.15.51 (c)
  • Click the button just below it that talks about ‘Other names’
  • Complete it as is appropriate to you – you CAN chose what you want to be shown as; I used ‘Name Type’… ‘Other’ and entered “Rev’d Mrs”, because that’s what I am – then ‘Save Changes’
  • What appears on our profile page is your name in bold, and in large, but less bold print underneath, the ministerial title under which you are operating on this Facebook account.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 14.51.24 (c)

All of which seems to me to be quite acceptable. Happy Facebooking ministry friends!

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About ramtopsrac

Church of England Priest, child of God, daughter of the New Forest, wife and mother.
This entry was posted in ministry, technical bits and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Has Facebook banned the use of religious titles? NO, it hasn’t. Here’s why, and how to use yours!

  1. ramtopsrac says:

    Interested to note whilst trying to inform Change.org that the premise of this petition is inaccurate, that there is no easy way of responding to a petition other than signing up to it, and no email details for them are easily visible on the website. Surely there should be a right to reply option?

    I have tried to tell them via @UKChange

  2. William Bitsas says:

    I disagree with your assesment that “the premise is inaccurate”. There are several Orthodox priests, monastics and hierarchs who have had their page or pages removed or been locked out of them. Other priests have been told that they need to remove titles or risk the same happenning. There has been a similar occurence among Catholic priests. I appreciate your solution, but Orthodox priests, abbots and bishops don’t usually go by “reverend Mrs.” or even just “reverend”, and having “Father” under the actual name might be interpreted as a statement of fertility rather than ordination.

    Moreover, Facebook has allowed drag queens to use the name by which they are known, even if not their legal name. I refer you to the following: https://www.facebook.com/chris.cox/posts/10101301777354543

    If that is allowed, then why not allow someone to use “Father” or “Elder” or “Geronda” or whatever title they are known by? Why is a pseudonym allowed for some, but a legirimate title is not allowed for others?

  3. ramtopsrac says:

    William, I was hoping the point I was making above was that if as ministers (of whatever denomination) we use Facebook appropriately, and put our honourifics in the correct place, we are perfectly at liberty to use them. How to make the amendments when you’ve made a legitimate mistake, and already been locked out of your account I don’t know, but presumably a reasoned conversation could lead to the ability to correct & unlock an account – it is in Facebooks interests to have us using their social media after all!

  4. If FB simply required a legal name on your account that would be fine and would take care of the security issue. But that is not the policy… they require you to use your “authentic name” which they define as both the name everyone knows you as AND that can be legally proven through identification. Of course these can be two different things especially for some religious who actually take on a new name when they are ordained. There is also the danger of requiring real names when dealing with people who have a legitimate need to hide their identities (victims of abuse/stalkers, people wanted by govts for sedition or just those who want to be able to post opinions without risking their personal safety)

  5. Chris says:

    The reason FB want us to use real names has absolutely zero to do with security. Ours, yours, theirs or anyone else’s. It is to make the profile information more valuable to advertisers and therefore more profitable for them.

  6. So, how do I – who have now been locked out of Facebook – for using the name that people DO know me by: Sr. Denise – get Facebook to give me access to my page again? I think it an invasion of privacy on their part to ask for a copy of a photo id of mine, with or without “the information I don’t want them to see” blocked out. I find no “contact us” anywhere.

  7. Cj E says:

    The naivete is shocking. Facebook doesn’t care about authenticity; ithe whole point behind the name requirement is for marketing. And their ‘authentic name’ policy is dangerous for victims of domestic violence and others who have good reason to use pseudonyms.

  8. Wait a moment… You are a woman, yet you are telling us you are an “ordained” cleric? The Church does not ordain women.

  9. revdianawilcox says:

    Wrong – it isn’t fixed at all. The title needs to be part of the Facebook name, because it is part of our name.

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