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Facebook No Longer Gender Neutral

Facebook No Longer Gender Neutral

Facebook says they've got good reason to want to make you identify as male or female. Apparently when no gender is chosen, Facebook’s grammar tool uses gender neutral terms like ‘they’ and ‘themselves’ when sending messages. However, with the advent of different languages being added to Facebook, the translation of ‘they’ and ‘themselves’ has proven to be a problem for other countries who don’t use gender neutral terms. In many other languages, words are still either masculine or feminine.

Facebook’s response is to require new users to select a gender and existing users will be prompted to enter the information. A spokesperson for Facebook says they do have an opt-out choice for those who do not wish to define their gender, or for those who find it too limiting (her words, not ours). So, even though they’re now requiring you to chose your gender, they’re saying you can opt-out if you wish. Does anyone else find that contradicting? However, they also said the option is similar to the feature that lets you hide your birthday or the year you were born, so perhaps it still requires you to choose a gender and then simply hides it.

Even that is problematic as we’ve read about the many security holes on Facebook that provide access to such personal details. Seems Facebook has their work cut out for them!

Do you think Facebook should be allowed to require users to choose a gender just so it translates better in different languages? Regardless, should social networking sites "require" any personal information? [USA Today]

Posted: 6/27/08