Friday, July 31, 2015

The German Facebook Pseudonym War

Germany has an office in Berlin which has the thrilling job of handling social media, and establishing rules.  This past week, they decided it was time to take on Facebook.

For years, throughout the world.....Facebook has forced people to start their account and enter their name as their identifying point of reference.  Pseudonyms were 'verboten'.

Well....the Germany agency in charge of social media decided that this was unfair, and Facebook would have to offer a pseudonym or fake name option.  It wasn't a friendly was notification that you have to offer all accounts in Germany this option.

Now, a guy from Alabama would look over this order and ponder upon it.  It's a Pandoras Box, if you ask me.

Statista says that 22 million Germans are on Facebook.  I can't it's a good number or not.  How many of the 22 million are fake names to start with?  Unknown.  There might actually be a million fake German accounts on Facebook to start with.

Oddly, considering the fact that the entire population of Germany is eighty million and a fair number of the eighty million are either under the age of ten or over the age of sixty....I might suggest that fewer than fifteen million of the twenty-two million are actual living people.  Maybe I'm wrong, but Facebook isn't exactly a big huge draw with the bulk of German society.

How many Germans are disturbed with the lack of fake names or the ability to generate a pseudonym?  The agency hasn't exactly come forward to say they have 1,000 or 50,000 complaints. Sadly, this whole agenda might be based on complaints by fifty people.

Facebook will examine the issue and note that a software change has to occur, but it's going to be only on the German Facebook side of things.  This might take a couple of months to devise.  Then the question from Facebook back to the government agency will be.....if someone wants the fake name or pseudonym of "Hitler_boy_1940" there a problem?

You can imagine some German bureaucrat sitting there and having their IT-weenie come into the office and discuss the Facebook question with the big manager.  He'll sit there and start to shake his head.  The intention of the fake-name or pseudonym order was simple....why would Facebook screw this up by asking this question?

A week later, the pseudonym system falls into place and within twenty-four hours.....there's at least eleven-thousand names which relate to Hitler or the Nazis.  Four-hundred fake names are anti-Catholic or anti-Christian.  Eighty-five thousand will relate to anti-Muslim themes.

You can guess the reaction by the German IT office.  They are freaking out.  Facebook sends an executive over and they just stand there.  You wanted got it.  What now?

Well....there has to be a filter.  The Facebook guy says OK.....what kind of filter?

A new office has to be developed with German language experts and their job is to devise lists upon lists of names or words that might be used for false name or pseudonyms, and they should be forbidden.  The original list?  Probably over 10,000 words.  Within a year.....another 10,000 will be added.  Week after week.....the clever language experts meet and discuss newly created words which should be allowed or forbidden.

As canny or astute as the German IT guys and bureaucrats think they are.....they really can't imagine the mess that they create by mandating the fake name option.  But it's the reality of being German.  As skillful and quick-on-the-trigger as they pretend to be.....they can be fairly naive about the consequences.

So, if you are living in Germany as an American and sign on one day to your Facebook account, and discover that they now offer a fake name option.....don't get any funny ideas about "Jimmy-Joe Hitler".  Someone will eventually figure out your joke and forbid it.

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