For a few hours on Monday morning, Salman Rushdie had just about had it with Facebook.
The social media site had detected a profile over the weekend—his Facebook profile—that it had mistakenly determined was fraudulent. So, without warning, Facebook flipped its switch, digitally executing Rushdie’s profile and removing it from the site. To get it reactivated, he was told, he would have to send a photograph of his passport, thereby proving his identity as the real Salman Rushdie, the Indian-British author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, and not a fraud. But when he did as instructed, his profile emerged from its Facebook purgatory with a problem.
“Facebook deactivated my account because they thought I wasn’t me,” he explained on the site. “Now they insist I call myself by the first name I have never used. What a bunch of morons.”
That rarely used first name, Ahmed, is what’s printed on his passport. Salman, technically speaking, is his middle name. And a post about “name standards” on Facebook’s Help Center—which the company on Monday acknowledged is a bit dated and then quickly updated after a query by The Daily Beast—suggested that middle names simply aren’t allowed.
“Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real first and last names so you always know who you’re connecting with,” it said.
But what, Rushdie took to Twitter to wonder, if the one you’re connecting with isn’t known by their first name at all?
“Dear #Facebook,” he tweeted, “forcing me to change my FB name from Salman to Ahmed Rushdie is like forcing J. Edgar to become John Hoover.” He went on: “Or, if F. Scott Fitzgerald was on #Facebook, would they force him to be Francis Fitzgerald? What about F. Murray Abraham?”
Others agreed. “What is the point of forcing Salman Rushdie to go by Ahmed Rushdie?” The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal wondered. “How does this benefit the social web?”
When reached Monday afternoon, a company spokesperson told The Daily Beast it does permit users to identify by their middle and last names. Rushdie’s profile suspension, and resulting name change, was all a mistake.
“Goodbye Ahmed, get back into the passport where you belong. Salman returns.”
“This action was taken in error and Mr. Rushdie’s account has been reactivated with the correct name,” the spokesperson said in an official announcement. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
That inconvenience was almost Facebook’s—Rushdie nearly took his presence elsewhere. “As I don’t and will never recognize myself as ‘Ahmed Rushdie’ I will be reducing FB activities to just about zero and cutting back my list of friends to actual friends or at least acquaintances, just to keep in touch,” he wrote in a post earlier in the day, before inviting readers to follow him on Twitter—Facebook’s on-again-off-again competitor. “I’m done.”
But later Monday, once Facebook had reinstated the profile as “Salman Rushdie,” the author made a triumphant return. “Victory!” he posted on his profile. “Goodbye Ahmed, get back into the passport where you belong. Salman returns.”
And with that return, a confirmation: Facebook users, middle names are A-OK in Zuckerville.