Facebook test lets users have up to five profiles for the same account

It's a major change for the platform, which has had strict rules about users' identities.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Facebook is testing giving users the ability to create up to five profiles on the platform, a major change to its longstanding policy that only allows people to have a single account and identity on the service. The upcoming test was reported by Bloomberg, which notes that it’s Facebook’s latest ploy to stave off declining engagement, particularly among younger users.

A spokesperson for Meta confirmed the test. “To help people tailor their experience based on interests and relationships, we’re testing a way for people to have more than one profile tied to a single Facebook account,” the spokesperson said. “Anyone who uses Facebook must continue to follow our rules.”

It’s not clear how big the initial test will be, or if Facebook plans to eventually make it available more widely. If it does, it could significantly alter the dynamics of how people interact on the social network. For one, it would make it easier for people to maintain different personas on the platform, or create separate pages targeted for different friend groups or interests. It’s also a major shift from Facebook’s longtime policy of requiring “real names.”

Unlike Instagram, which allows users to create multiple accounts and doesn’t require them to use their real names, Facebook has had strict — and often controversial — rules about users’ identities, regularly suspending users it catches using multiple accounts. In some cases, the service will even ask users to verify the name on their profile by providing a copy of an official I.D.

But users who have access to multiple profiles will now only need to use their real name on their main profile. Additional profiles will be able to use nicknames or other identities as long as they don’t break other rules, like those barring impersonation.

That the company is now changing its approach to users’ names and identities is a sign of just how important it is for Facebook to reverse recent declines in engagement. Mark Zuckerberg had said the platform will reorient itself to be more appealing to younger users in an effort to better compete with TikTok and other rivals. The app is also planning a significant redesign that will emphasize recommendations more than posts from friends.