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Facebook stops asking users to rat out friends using fake names

Facebook users with unconventional names can rest easy – the social network has ended an experiment that called on users to rat out friends using fake names.

Facebook recently started displaying a survey to its users that asked: "Is this your friend's real name?" It served up an image of your friend, as well as the name they were currently using on Facebook and their location. Facebook users were given the option to respond: 'Yes', 'No', 'I don't know this person', or 'I don't want to answer.'

The survey was first reported on Twitter by activist/artist/photojournalist/writer @chapeaudefee, and picked up by security firm Sophos. "Are you going to be the snitch?" @chapeaudefree asked.

Facebook confirmed to TPM the next day that for a few months, the social network has been analysing usernames.

"This system has been in a few different incarnations over the past couple months," a Facebook spokesman said. "It changes depending on what's being asked."

A Facebook spokeswoman has now ventured that the social network has ended what it called a limited survey.

"We are always looking to gauge how people use Facebook and represent themselves to better design our product and systems," the spokeswoman said in an email. "We analysed these surveys only using aggregate data and responses had zero impact on any user's account."

According to Facebook's official name policy, "Facebook is a community where people connect and share using their real identities."

The network, whose Terms of Service directly state that users provide a real name, wants people to use their given titles in an effort provide a safe community for people to connect with others.

But it's clear that Facebook is fighting a losing battle.

Last month, the site reported that it now has more than 950 million monthly active users, but about 8.7 per cent of those accounts are duplicates, misclassified, or "undesirable." In the big picture, about 83 million accounts are trying to spam you.

Those numbers, however, are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts, Facebook said last month, and may not accurately reflect the actual number of such accounts.