Salman Rushdie In FB Faceoff

November 15, 2011 by staff 

Salman Rushdie In FB Faceoff, The writer Salman Rushdie hit Twitter on Monday morning with a litany of exasperated posts. Facebook, he wrote, had deactivated his account, demanded proof of identity and then turned him into Ahmed Rushdie, which is how he is identified on his passport. He never used his first name, Ahmed, he pointed out; the world knows him as Salman.

Would Facebook have turned J. Edgar Hoover into John Hoover, he scoffed, or F. Scott Fitzgerald into Francis Fitzgerald?

“Where are you hiding, Mark?” he demanded of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive. “Come out here and give me back my name!”

The Twitterverse took up his cause. Within two hours, Rushdie gleefully declared victory: “Facebook has buckled! I’m Salman Rushdie again. I feel SO much better. An identity crisis at my age is no fun.”

Rushdie’s predicament points to one of the trickiest notions about life in the digital age: are you who you say you are online? Whose business is it — and what for?

As the internet becomes the place for all kinds of transactions, from buying shoes to overthrowing despots, an increasingly vital debate is emerging over how people represent and reveal themselves on the websites they visit. One side envisions a system in which you use a sort of digital passport, bearing your real name and issued by a company like Facebook, to travel across the internet. Another side believes in the right to don different hats — and sometimes, masks — so you can consume and express what you want, without fear of offline repercussions.

The argument over pseudonyms — known online as the “nym wars” — goes to the heart of how the internet might be organised in the future. Major internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have a valuable stake in this debate — and, in some cases, vastly different corporate philosophies on the issue that signal their own ambitions.

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