Ethiopia: LGBT activist banned by facebook under real name policy

An Ethiopian LGBT activist and leader who runs multiple Facebook groups for gay Ethiopians has had his account blocked by Facebook for not using his real name. The activist, who goes by the pseudonym HappyAddis, used the social network to create and administrate some of the most popular groups for gay Ethiopians, including Zega Matters, which has more than 1,000 members.

The East African country considers homosexuality a crime and those convicted of same-sex relations can face 15 years in prison. For that reason, many LGBT citizens use an alias to interact with others online in order to avoid punishment from the authorities and anti-gay violence.

A Facebook representative, who could not speak about HappyAddis’s situation since the company does not comment on specific accounts, said that users who require anonymity can either use a secret Facebook group or a different platform that allows anonymity.

But HappyAddis says neither of those options would work in his situation. Secret groups still require users’ real names, a non-starter for those who fear physical violence if their identity is revealed. Using a real name is “like outing yourself." “People will go and attack you. Even other gay people, you don’t trust them. How can you find out whether they’re real gay people using a real account?”  Read More