You know things are a little strange in the social networking world when Mark Zuckerberg’s new dog Beast has his own Facebook page, while Chinese activist and blogger Michael Anti isn’t allowed to.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has a new dog, a puppy he and his girlfriend Priscilla Chan have named Beast. Nothing unusual there, as millions of people every year acquire new animals and give them stupid names. However, this little dog has his own Facebook page complete with information, photos, and the assignation of ‘Public Figure’.
I find this incredulous. Why has Zuckerberg’s dog got a Facebook page, and why as it gained over 40,000 fans at the time of writing? However, my disbelief at this madness is nothing compared to the reaction of one Michael Anti, a Chinese blogger and activist whose legal name is Zhao Jing.
Anti’s problem is that he isn’t allowed on Facebook, having had his account removed in January without notice. Facebook’s reasoning is its policy against pseudonyms which states that he, like everyone else, must use his legally-given name. However, Anti has been using that name for more than a decade online, with articles and essays published with Michael Anti as the byline and his network of contacts only knowing him as that.
Anti told CNBC:
I’m really, really angry. I can’t function using my Chinese name. Today, I found out that Zuckerberg’s dog has a Facebook account. My journalistic work and academic work is more real than a dog.
The bigger issue is that activists and political commentators in countries which frown on free speech sometimes need to hide behind a pen name online in order to avoid detection by the authorities. And stopping these people from doing so is further hindering their ability to express themselves on the Internet.
It should be noted that Beast only has a page dedicated to him rather than a profile. So it’s not as though the dog is a Facebook account holder. Still, I can see why Anti is angry with the development, and his argument that pseudonyms should sometimes be accepted in exceptional circumstances is one that Facebook should consider. After they’ve taken the dog out for a walk, obviously.