Facebook appears to have solved the bug that led to the word 'Palestinian' being banned from page titles. But that's not their only problem: Now people with the surname "Arab" are being prevented from opening accounts.
Over the weekend, Rex Brynen of the Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet tried to create a Facebook page for his group. Only, he was prevented from doing so by a rogue moderating process that was blocking the word "Palestinian" from page titles. Facebook fixed the process and, to their credit, apologized to Professor Brynen:
We have an automated system that checks for obviously inaccurate profile registration names. For a short time, this was inadvertently applied to Page creation names. Once we were alerted to this, we moved to fix the problem immediately. It's now fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.
But Facebook's problems with Arabic proper names don't end there. A tipster wrote in to let us know that when she attempted to change her Facebook account to her married name—"Arab," a common Palestinian surname—she was prevented from doing so.
Oddly enough, her husband had been allowed to use his real last name when he signed up for Facebook in 2007—but when he changed the spelling of his name to Arabic script for fun a few weeks ago, he wasn't able to change it back to the Roman alphabet. (Family members who have tried to sign up have reported the same problem.) We ran into the same problem when we tried to set up dummy accounts with the last name "Arab":
As with the word "Palestinian," this is more than likely an overzealous automated process—despite Facebook's history of passive-agressive censorship, they're not in the business of preventing possible consumers from signing up. But our tipster and her husband have both emailed Facebook several times, and still haven't been able to use their legal, actual names for their Facebook accounts. Sure, the company can patch this bug by letting people use the name "Arab" again. But this shouldn't have been a problem in the first place—especially if CEO Mark Zuckerberg really believes that his site can be a tool for building bridges across cultural divides.