• 07/25/2011
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Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

Pseudonyms, odd spellings, and branded profiles get users kicked off Google+ without warning, but you can appeal.
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Google+ users who ignored or stretched the rules of the service are getting cut off from the budding social network without warning.

Whether or not this really is a sudden purge, or just a continuation of announced policy, Google's moves are irritating a lot of the service's early fans. Google already has admitted its mistakes in the handling of Google+ business profiles, which are not yet officially supported. While gearing up for the official launch of company profiles, Google has been suspending accounts created with the name of a business rather than an individual crammed into the first name and last name fields.

Now the company seems to be cracking down on accounts registered with fake names or pseudonyms (even though it looks like accounts for Testy Tester and Pseudo Nym are still live). But users are also complaining of accounts that were shut down over the use of a nickname or funny punctuation, such as a nickname or handle included in parentheses.

Aside from arguing for the legitimate uses of anonymity on the web, many users are arguing that the rules are unclear and unevenly enforced. Asked for clarification, a Google spokesperson provided links to a couple of support forum posts and added, "I cannot go into more detail on our processes or policies, and I cannot confirm the removal of individual accounts."

From the published rules and some reading between the lines, here is what we can tell you about the rules and how they are being interpreted:

Use your common, real-life name

The documentation for the Google Profiles feature that is the foundation of Google+ and other Google social media says users must be identified so "you can be certain you're connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they're checking out. For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life."

That phrase "in daily life" leaves some room for real life nicknames, and Google+ project head Vic Gundotra noted in a conversation with Robert Scoble that "Vic" is not his own full, legal name. Gundotra also told Scoble that Google is rethinking the policy and ways that it might address some valid complaints, but without abandoning the principle that requiring people to use their real identities is likely to result in more civil discussions and a better community.

One challenge here is that many social media users have become far better known by their online handles and pseudonyms than by their real names. Programmer and former Google employee Kirrily Robert, better known as Skud, believes he was adhering to the letter of Google's law when he signed up for an account under that name--even though he was not surprised when the rule was interpreted differently in practice.


re: Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

The problem I have with being forced to use real life names as opposed to a name you want to known as is Domestic Violence. Has Google even thought about the amount of victims that want to connect and not hide anymore. Does Google have any idea how many victims are in hiding and if their spouses or ex spouses find them what may very likely happen to them? Does Google have any idea what the Hell they are doing? Does Google care if I use Google+ or say screw you Google, I'll stick with Facebook and Twitter where I can use a pseudonym. Does Google want to take the civil responsibility of the consequences of those people who are in hiding and forced to use their real names? Sure, I know, we certainly have no obligation to use Google's new social media. Yep they're right. Just like the lady that drank the hot coffee at McDonalds and it too hot for her. She sued, won a couple hundred thousand dollars. Now who wouldn't expect the coffee to be hot? Still, the law prevailed on her side. Does Google want me (and I use it in the 1st person only for easier to read purposes) to just say Hey thanks google+ but no thanks, I can connect fine on LOTS of other social media and i don't really care about yours. Because you have taken anonymity away from me. So Good luck with that venture and i'll be sure to advise the worldwide organization I volunteer for on the domestic violence issue to stay away too. Better those few million people in hiding all over the world stay away from the rigidity of Google+ I will also be more than happy to go to my local shelters, rape victims right organizations and let them know that this is not the social media outlet for them. You have to give your rapist your real name. After they spent all that time in jail based on your testimony and so what if you moved to a new state, country or town? Google+ doesn't care about you, your privacy or anything else.

On the other hand, I see Google+ point of view, a lot of very sketchy characters could be hiding out in the nether regions of the vast internet. Altho, they are already firmly ensconced. In my opinion my fear outweighs Google+ rigidity and my domestic violence, rape victims needs far outweigh the use of a real name on Google+ So I may just have to say adios Google+ too bad, cuz I kinda liked the format. food for thought Google. I know you guys that founded Google must be about 27 by now, but surely you do understand the dangers for Violence, murder and rape in the case of using your real name. If not, I suggest you familiarize yourself with say Witness protection or something along those lines.

How insensitive can you possibly be Google+ ? Really expected so much more from you. In fact i would have been the 1st to say how much I love my Google. All of my accounts and services I use thru them. There are just so many other choices.

re: Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

The main change that Google needs to make is to send a warning first before suspending an account. Do something like, "your account has been flagged as potentially violating terms of service on using proper name in profile, Appeal here in the next two weeks to prevent suspension of account."
That way people don't lose access and have to fight to regain it (potentially losing contacts, information and business in the process).

re: Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

Makes sense, yes. Unless there is something really outrageous going on with that account, what would it hurt to give something like a 5-day warning. They could spare themselves a few public relations flubs in the process.

re: Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

According to a G+ post from last night by Bradley Horowitz, Google is in fact instituting an advance warning on potential violations of the profile naming policy, giving people a chance to appeal BEFORE the account is suspended. Some other changes coming in the next few months.

re: Google+ Profiles: Just What Gets You Booted?

Bradley Horowitz, one of the lead Google execs on G+, posted some updates and clarifications here

Among other things, he said policies and appeals procedures are being clarified. Also emphasized it's NOT true you can lose access to all google services (your Gmail etc) because of the profile name issue. A complete ban like that would require violations of other terms of service.

Caterina Fake (best known as the co-founder of Flickr) has a good post talking about the uses of anonymity and pseudonyms that led me to Horowitz's comments.