Simon Willison’s Weblog

How do startups verify the real names of their users?

My answer to How do startups verify the real names of their users? on Quora

The short answer is they don’t: they expect people to obey the policy, then block accounts that are clearly in violation.

A smarter approach is to outsource the problem—require people to sign in with Facebook for example and leave it to Facebook to police their own real names policy. Of course then you’re entirely dependent on a third party for your core user database.

Personally, I think real name policies are user-hostile and short-sighted. They assume that none of your users are people who have been adopted, or survived an abusive relationship, or escaped from involvement in violent crime. There are plenty of people with 100% legitimate non-paranoid reasons to not use their real names online.