It started out as a joke.
Daniel Balls, a British cancer researcher who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, reluctantly joined Facebook around 2006 to check out some photos that a friend had tagged him in. “All right, if I have to, I’ll set this up,” he recalls. He registered with the name “Bad Boy Ballsy.”
About a year after joining the service, Facebook wised up to the fact that “Bad Boy Ballsy” did not conform to the social network’s real-name policy and shut down the account. Over the years, Balls has used a number of pseudonyms on the social network—partly out of playfulness and partly because of Facebook’s insistence that people use their real names. The problem is Facebook thinks his real name—Balls—must surely be fake.
So Balls went with “Daniel Shlong“—which, inexplicably, was deemed acceptable, and remains his Facebook name:
Continuing the theme of nether regions, he often posts images of himself and his friends mooning the camera in front of iconic backdrops, such as the Great Wall of China—”these places with great views,” he tells Quartz.
But his wife finds it less amusing to be connected online with Daniel Shlong. “All right, I’ll change it so you’ll stop whining,” Ball remembers telling her when she was still his girlfriend, in 2011. But, he says, Facebook still won’t allow the change, refusing to believe Balls. He says he was not asked to submit any documentation to prove otherwise.
Facebook started coming under fire last year for vigorously enforcing its real-name policy. Though the company says the aim of the policy is to reduce online trolling, it ended up shutting down the accounts of show business performers who prefer to go by their stage names, Native Americans whose real names weren’t recognized by the company, and other non-trolls. Even Lady Gaga had to change her name on Facebook. And despite recent assurances from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that users can choose as their Facebook name “whatever you go by and what your friends call you,” transgender people have reported being shut out of the service for using names the service deemed dubious.
In July, Balls tried again—hopeful since his cousin managed to get their shared last name recognized—but he was unsuccessful.
“Where has all the fun in Facebook gone?” he texted me after trying for the last time. “Oh well, Daniel Shlong lives on.”
A Facebook representative said the company was looking into the matter.