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Rushdie Exasperated For Facebook Identity Crisis

11/15/2011 08:59 PM ET

Rushdie Facebook - Salman Rushdie didn’t waste any time having a face-off with Facebook over some name issues with Mark Zuckerberg. He wrote on Twitter Monday morning with a flurry of exasperated posts about the social networking website. He said that the site had deactivated his account, demanded proof of identity and then turned his first name into Ahmed, which is how he is identified on his passport.

However, he had never used his first name, Ahmed, he pointed out; the world knows him as Salman. “Where are you hiding, Mark?” he demanded of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, in one post. “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.”

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 Web sites 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.

Google’s social network, Google+, which opened up to all comers in September, likewise wants the real names its users are known by offline, and it has frozen the accounts of some perceived offenders.

But Google has indicated more recently that it will eventually allow some use of aliases. Vic Gundotra, the Google executive responsible for the social network, said at a conference last month that he wanted to make sure its “atmosphere” remained comfortable even with people using fake names. “It’s complicated to get this right,” he said.

Twitter, by sharp contrast, follows a laissez-faire approach, allowing the use of pseudonyms by WikiLeaks supporters and a prankster using the name @FakeSarahPalin, among many others. It does consider deceitful impersonation to be grounds for suspension.

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