Chinese Activists Less Welcome on Facebook Than Mark Zuckerberg's Dog

Bad timing: Just as Mark Zuckerberg's (admittedly cute) dog Beast joined Facebook, well-known Chinese activist Michael Anti (ne Zhao Jing) was booted off—his profile and hundreds of contacts vanished. The reason: Anti's use of an Westernized pen name to register his account violated Facebook's dumb, strict real name policy. "Facebook has always been based on a real name culture," is the company line.

Anti, who has written under his pen name for ten years and been awarded journalism fellowships at Cambridge and Harvard, is justifiably pissed. Especially since it's customary in China for people to adopt Westernized names to help English speakers. "It's insulting. They think my academic and journalistic work is less real than Zuckerberg's dog?" he asked the Guardian.

The short answer is, "Yes, they do." Facebook's policies implicitly favor the banal over the groundbreaking. So Egyptian and Chinese activists fighting oppressive governments aren't allowed to use pseudonyms, but there are all sorts of tools to let Westerners organize fundraisers for breast cancer research or their local dog shelter.

Speaking of dogs: Beast, Zuckerberg's new pet, is allowed to be on Facebook because he has a "fan page" page for public figures, not a personal page. Michael Anti could probably register a public fan page, too—even using his pen name. A fan page is good for building the brands of pop stars and famous dogs; not so good for a dissident who just wants to communicate. But it's pretty clear Facebook doesn't want people using their service to organize revolutions anyway.

And of course that's Facebook's prerogative, to make their service safer for dogs than for human rights activists. Woof. [Guardian]