Author Salman Rushdie waged a brief battle with Facebook on Nov. 14 when the social network disputed his identity, shut down his account and then changed his profile name to Ahmed Rushdie, the name on his passport, according to the New York Times.
Rushdie vented on Twitter, which is not as finicky about authentic identities, and Facebook eventually caved in and allowed him to use the name Salman Rushdie again.
This is not as big a story at the moment, perhaps, as a nighttime police raid on a certain Downtown New York protesters’ encampment, but the question of online identity is only going to get trickier as Facebook and Twitter square off for dominance, and brands try to determine where to invest their resources. Facebook is betting its business on authentic identities, which enables individuals and brands to have some modicum of control over their messages, and offers advertisers and Facebook’s partners some real-world user data.
Facebook’s insistence on real identities could tilt everything in Twitter’s favor, especially if the Occupy movement escalates and begins to have cultural effects beyond its adherents. This growing, homegrown political movement will be focusing more and more on Twitter, which allows for the use of pseudonyms. It’s looking like Twitter will be shedding its news feed patina, and will become in the coming election year the kind of open town hall that Facebook will only be able to envy.
And where the people go, the brands follow.