On August 1 of this year, platform engineer Isis Anchalee wrote a short essay for Medium that highlighted some of the examples of sexism she encountered as a female working in the technology industry. She started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign after featuring in an ad that drew criticism from some commentators who claimed it was marketed toward women, and that Anchalee looked “too sexy” in it. Yet despite gaining online fame through her actions, Facebook disabled her account earlier this week because of her first name, Isis.
The 22-year-old Tweeted that her social media account could not be reactivated because Facebook suspected her of having ties with the terrorist group. “Facebook thinks I’m a terrorist. Apparently sending them a screenshot of my passport is not good enough for them to reopen my account,” she wrote. One of Anchalee's Facebook friends noted that their message thread had been marked as spam.
Facebook thinks I'm a terrorist. Apparently sending them a screenshot of my passport is not good enough for them to reopen my account.— Isis Anchalee (@isisAnchalee) November 17, 2015
This all happened just two days after Anchalee had posted a Tweet detailing the daily challenges she faced because of her first name. One Twitter user claimed to know someone who had also had their account suspended for the same reason and gave up trying to get it reactivated.
Shortly after posting her Tweet, Anchalee was contacted by Facebook researcher Omid Farivar, who publicly apologized and quickly reinstated her account.
@isisAnchalee Isis, sorry about this. I don't know what happened. I've reported it to the right people and we're working on fixing it.— omid farivar (@bromid) November 17, 2015
Two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it would make several improvements to its real names policy that asks users to refrain from adding symbols, punctuation, unusual characters, professional or religious titles, or “offensive or suggestive words of any kind.” The policy had come under fire from certain users who say they are unfairly targeted by the restrictions. In August, an Arizona couple claimed they were banned from Facebook until they could prove that their last name really was Avatar.
The US Social Security website shows 8789 people have been named Isis since the year 2000. Earlier this year, 50,000 people signed a petition asking news organizations to stop using the name ISIS to refer to the terrorist group, as it is harmful to girls constantly hearing their name associated with the terror organization. Anchalee has suggested that referring to the group as Daesh - an anglicized version of the acronym when written in Arabic that is used by some world leaders - would be a better option.