Facebook sign
Facebook admits that it has more work to do in order to stop its system from automatically blocking Native Americans with unusual names Reuters

Facebook's policy on real names has been highly controversial and the social network is now being criticised by Native Americans, who say that their Facebook accounts keep being suspended for using "fake names".

Facebook received pressure from gay rights groups and was forced to apologise to members of the LGBT community in October 2014 for forcing them to use the names that they were legally born with.

Facebook promised to amend its policy and create a way for people to identify themselves using "legitimate pseudonyms", but according to Colorlines, many Native Americans have received similar treatment and are being threatened with having their accounts suspended.

In fact, several users had their accounts suspended ironically on Indigenous People's Day (formerly Columbus Day), including a user named Shane Creepingbear:

Naming traditions are hugely important to Native American Indian tribes, and although there are many Native Americans who use common surnames like "Smith", "Johnson" or "Hunt", there are also many who were born legally with more colourful and traditional names.

These names are often quite long, up to four words, and although they might include an anglicised name like "John" or "Peter", they also include elements traditional to their respective tribe.

Changing to anglicised names

In a blog on Last Real Indians, Dana Lone Hill gives the example of a man named "Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes" who had his Facebook account suspended.

According to Lone Hill, the individual sent in the requested proof of identification, after which Facebook reinstated his account and changed his name to "Lance Brown".

Brown Eyes was only able to get his name changed back on the social network after threatening Facebook with a class action lawsuit.

Lone Hill, a member of the Lakota tribe, has also had problems trying to login to her Facebook account, although she has been with the social network since 2007.

She wanted to use both her mother's surname Lone Hill and her father's surname Lone Elk on her profile, and her account was suspended by Facebook on 2 February.

When she changed her name back to just "Dana Lone Hill", her account was suspended again after several hours.

If an account is suspended by Facebook, the user can only get it back by providing the social network with official identification, such as a passport, birth certificate, library card, voter identification card or yearbook photo.

Lone Hill writes that she has now sent the company three different types of ID and has been told by Facebook via a computer-generated message that she will need to wait for the social network to complete its investigation.

Problem has existed since 2009

Facebook said in 2012 that over 83 million accounts were registered with fake names and that this was the reason why the policy had come into force, but in truth, the problem with Native Americans and their names existed long before this.

In 2009, a 28-year-old Native American woman named "Parmelee Kills The Enemy" had her Facebook profile deactivated due to her name.

She could only get her account reinstated after sending the social network scanned copies of a US government identification document to prove her last name was real.

Facebook said in a statement to IBTimes UK: "Over the last several months, we've made some significant improvements in the implementation of this standard, including enhancing the overall experience and expanding the options available for verifying an authentic name.

"We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritise these improvements so everyone can be their authentic self on Facebook."