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Some sites may ask for a first and last name or other personal information. Several sites have a condition in their Terms of Service that providing inaccurate information upon registration is not permitted. Does the name have to match a legal or commonly used name to be considered accurate, or only if the ToS states it directly? For example, if my legal name was John Doe, could I use nicknames (Johnny or Jack Doe) or a random name (Cool Man or James Smith, for instance)?

A good example of this is Wix's Terms, which say:

You must provide accurate and complete information when registering your User Account and using the Wix Services, to which you are the sole and exclusive rights holder. We strongly encourage you to provide your own (or your company’s) contact and billing details, including your valid e-mail address, as we may use it to identify and determine the actual and true owner of the User Account and/or User Content (as defined below) submitted to us.

Or Weebly's, which say:

In consideration of use of the Service, you agree to maintain and update true, accurate, current and complete Registration Data. If you provide any information that is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, or if Weebly has reasonable grounds to suspect that such information is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, we may suspend or terminate your account and refuse any and all current or future use of the Service or any portion thereof.

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  • This really depends how "inaccurate information" is defined in the ToS. Are we to assume it's not defined in any way, and no further requirements are listed regarding names?
    – Ryan M
    Aug 11, 2021 at 4:44
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    We need a jurisdiction. Naming laws, and how names may be changed, vary dramatically. In some jurisdictions, your name is what you call yourself, and updating the government register is optional. In other jurisdictions, your name is what appears on the government register, and informal "nicknames" have no legal validity.
    – Kevin
    Aug 11, 2021 at 5:17
  • @Kevin This site encourages answers which deal with different jurisdictions so there is nothing wrong with leaving out a jurisdiction tag and hoping for a range of different jurisdicdtion-dependent answers. It's only necessary to tag if you are looking for an answer for a specific jurisdiction.
    – JBentley
    Aug 11, 2021 at 11:25
  • @RyanM I added two examples. Aug 11, 2021 at 21:27
  • @Kevin I added a united-states tag. Aug 11, 2021 at 21:27

3 Answers 3

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Depending on the circumstances, it may be irrelevant whether or not the the terms of service contain an express clause dealing with inaccurate information.

For example, in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, under section 2(1) of the Fraud Act 2006, if you dishonestly make a representation which is untrue or misleading with the intention to make a gain or cause someone a loss you will commit the offence of fraud.

This could arise for example if you give a false name intending to obstruct the other party from being able to pursue you for any breach of your contractual obligations (e.g. non-payment for services).

As for whether or not you would breach any clause in the contract requiring you to provide accurate information, it's very hard to say without seeing the exact wording and context of the clause.

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  • Maybe the Facebook terms would be a good example to examine given their user base is large and international? "When people stand behind their opinions and actions, our community is safer and more accountable. For this reason, you must: - Use the same name that you use in everyday life. - Provide accurate information about yourself." It flips the "legal name" and "name you use every day" aspect, but I still think it is a good example.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 11, 2021 at 14:05
  • @ColleenV I added a few examples, but Facebook is definitely worth considering as well. Aug 11, 2021 at 21:27
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In principle, Terms and Services agreements are effectively contracts, and would be governed mostly under contract law, at least under Common Law interpretations (i.e., US or UK legal principles). Therefore an intentional breach of the terms could form the basis of a breach of the contract itself, and justification for being removed from the website.

There are two seperate considerations - are they asking for the "legal name" for billing purposes (as Vix appears to do), or simply for display name purposes (for example, Facebook).

Even if a site asks for your "legal name," it is likely that a simple common nickname such as Johnny for John or Mike for Michael would not form the basis of any action. This is particularly true where your billing information might not match your legal name exactly - your legal name might be William X. Q. Smith III, but if your credit card says Bill Smith, then you're almost certainly ok going with Bill Smith.

In general however, the consequences of using a "false" name seem to depend wildly on the individual circumstances. If I use a nickname on Facebook, the worst they really are likely to do is ask me to change it back, and perhaps suspend my account if I refuse. The less name-like my nickname is (i.e., if instead of Mike, I go by Shazam), the more likely a suspension might be.

-Shaz... I mean, Mike.

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    I suspect that Facebook wants the name you use everyday so they can more easily associate you with people you know, content you posted elsewhere, etc. and mine that data for advertising purposes.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 14, 2021 at 10:37
  • I suspect the "Terms and Services" is a mix-up of "Terms of Service"(ToS) and "Terms & Conditions"(T&C). Either way, in civil law countries contract law still applies. But the legal analysis could differ- a contract could be void or voidable if the parties are not identifiable.
    – MSalters
    Aug 16, 2021 at 13:20
  • I get why Weebly or Wix would need the information for billing purposes, but what if I stick to what is available for free (hosting a website is free, but selecting a domain name costs). Why would my name be needed in that case? Aug 16, 2021 at 21:54
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This may differ per stare or potentially even per local or tribal laws, but on the federal level in the U.S., my guess would be that if the information form is referenced or otherwise incorporated in the ToS, it may be inaccurate information to enter other then parts of your full name respectively, so long as the form requires that you fill it out at the first and last name per your full name. If it does not specify it, you may, in good faith, fill it out by the first and last names you are predominantly known by.

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