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St. Clair Shores

August 28, 2013

No hiding online

City bans fake Facebook names

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

In order to preserve the “integrity” of the page, City Council approved changes to the City of St. Clair Shores’ Facebook page’s terms of use, restricting what usernames can be used.

City Communications Director Mary Jane D’Herde said the issue of false user names was not addressed when the city began its page in 2010. The page has since grown to more than 10,000 users, but at the same time, D’Herde said Facebook itself has changed its own terms of use to be more ambiguous about what is allowed to be used as a username on the site.

“It’s a little ambiguous,” she said at the Aug. 19 City Council meeting. “It encourages the use of real names (but) it gives you guidelines for using false names or custom names.”

Because of that, she explained, the Communications Commission wanted to add language to St. Clair Shores’ terms of use, prohibiting posting under a false name.

“We really do depend upon users to be honest,” she said, acknowledging that it would be difficult for the city to actually vet every user of the site.

But while the added language prohibits users from posting under a false name, a username that includes a nickname and the person’s real last name is still allowed. Businesses, organizations and clubs can also still post under the name of that business, organization or club.

D’Herde said they would handle appeals on an individual basis, using the example of a user that was posting under a first and middle name to avoid stalking.

Councilman Peter Rubino said he brought this concern up when the page began.

“I think you should use your own name,” he said. “I think it should be across the board without exceptions. Everybody should use their real name.”

But Councilman Chris Vitale had a problem with the new verbiage, since there was no way to enforce it. He said by putting the policy in place prohibiting false names, it gives the impression the city has vetted all the names on its page and found them all to be legitimate.

“Wouldn’t it be better to have people who are obviously posting under obviously fake names” to continue, he asked. “People would know every statement made … (should be taken) with a grain of salt.”

He also pointed out that any untoward behavior was already banned under the existing terms of use, no matter the name the person is posting under.

“If we have a policy (banning false names) and we find out you are (using one), then we can ban that false name,” said Councilman Ron Frederick, a member of the Communications Commission. But, he conceded, “I guess they’ll just make another one anyway.

“I don’t think we’re actually codifying somebody who’s actually being that dastardly. This is sort of a way to give us a little teeth on our side.”

The language was approved by City Council 5-1, with Vitale opposed. Councilwoman Candice Rusie was absent.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.