Posted by : Wendy B Friday, 29 July 2011

This is my new friend Sean Hunt.

He and I were not friends a week ago when our views on the use of pseudonyms clashed. Fortunately, I resisted my usual desires to fight the good fight and chose not to pursue the argument. (Those who know me, know just how much effort that took.)

You see, while I wish to judge people on more than their name, Sean wishes for us all to be proud of who we are and, to show that he is a man true to his convictions, he changed his name on Google+ to reflect that which appears on his very own passport.

And that's where Lady Irony stepped in.


"After reviewing your profile, we determined that the name you provided violates our Community Standards"

Sean was good humoured enough to alert me to this irony, and asked that I share it as further evidence of the problems here at Google+ when it comes to our profiles.

There are three concerns that I have had with the Google Profile issue:
1. The UNCLEAR policy, which I documented in a letter to Google last week.
2. The INCONSISTENT ADMINISTRATION of that policy.
3. Google's PROLONGED SILENCE on the issue.
It's not about whether or not Google+ should allow pseudonyms despite the fact that this argument is still popping up in our streams almost as much as the cats. While we argue, very real people, whether they use "real" names or pseudonyms - are being suspended from their accounts.

There is no three-strikes-you're-out. There is just the hammer that slams down - some say because of an algorithm, some say because of user-reported abuse.

Whatever causes the suspensions, the fact is, Google's first response to our offenses within a TRIAL has been to suspend us.

How's that for customer relations?

And when people have been providing ample feedback and expressing their concerns on this, so much so that it has breached the media, Google remained silent.

How's that for public relations?

Google VP Brad Horowitz FINALLY made an (un)official announcement on the issue. Nothing like having your public relations failure make it to the mainstream media to inspire a response! Among other things, he indicated that users would be given "a warning and a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension."

There is no word on when such changes would take place (Sean received no such warning).

While this suspension warning is a nice gesture, the more appropriate action and response would have been something like:
"We will cease the suspension of accounts based solely on apparent profile name violations until such time as we have come to a solid conclusion over the use of pseudonyms. Our policy regarding this issue will be updated accordingly to clearly reflect Google's new standards, and an official announcement will be made to allow users time to address any profiles that may be in violation..."
Some people are crying for patience. "Google will get it in the end." I suspect these people are (A) those who feel they are safe from suspension, because they are using their real name, or (B) those who are using pseudonyms and trying to remain under the radar and don't like others rocking the boat by standing up for something we care about.

I'm sure Google will get something in the end. Meanwhile, users are still being suspended and reinstated in an inconsistent manner. How patient can we be when even Sean changing to his rightful name results in a suspension?

How patient can we be when the administration of suspensions works a little something like this (actual examples):

- Person A (pseudonym): Returned in tact; no hassle.
- Person B (pseudonym): Returned in tact, after providing links to their personal website
- Person C (pseudonym): Changed name in fear of further repercussions
- Person D (real name): Required to show ID to prove that his real looking name is actually real
- Person E (real name): Returned because Person E is famous
- Person F (pseudonym): Returned after changing last name to an initial
- Person G (pseudonym): Returned in tact after providing Google-approved ID (Linkedin and Facebook profiles)
- Person H (pseudonym): Denied after providing Google-approved ID (Linkedin and Facebook profiles)
- Person I (pseudonym): Returned in tact after enough people vouched for the use of his name offline
- Person J (pseudonym): Politely asked by Google to use his real name
- Person K (pseudonym): Profile untouched because she is famous
- Person L (pseudonym): Reinstated with restricted access after providing Google-accepted ID; suspended again a day later

Are we still using the pretense of fake profiles? Are we still proclaiming that Google is doing this in an attempt to protect us from Britney Spears wanting to network and have relationships with us? Because if that's the notion, it's not working.

By now, at least one person in your Circles will have been suspended, whether you realize it or not. For me, it's been several. Several people whom I dare to call friend because they are very real people with real profiles and real content.

Real people - many of whom have been with Google for a long time and have even been trusted by Google to test their products - who deserve to be treated a lot better.

We all joined in excitement and thought we had been welcomed by Google, only to have the welcome mat pulled out from under some of us. It is not a pleasant experience, and it is only being amplified with time.

Feel free to condemn me for voicing my disagreement with the actions of a company providing me with a free service in a 5 week old trial. Feel free to contact me when your own profile or that of a good friend is suspended. I do not hold grudges. I only demand that Google do the right thing and take responsibility for this mess.

[NOTE: We suspect Sean's suspension has to do with adding a hyphen to his name, which may have violated the "avoid using symbols" policy. However, I am hardpressed to believe that Google has never encountered real names using hyphens (or apostrophes) before and lacks the coding skill to ensure that such names aren't flagged for suspension!]

11 Responses so far.

  1. It might be the "-" between Sean and Maurice. They have a "no special characters" policy.

  2. And there's me. Still not 100% sure why they're letting me continue to exist. *sigh*

  3. Sean and I speculated that it was the hyphen, but I am hard pressed to believe that Google has never encountered hyphenated names before.

    In fact, my real name is hyphenated. I guess I better not change to my real name lest I be banned....

  4. Google Employee David Joiner has his Google Plus account as "Talin -" So you can have hypens in there.

    I just wish he would use his real name like the rest of us are supposed to do.

  5. I was suspended, allowed back with a very restricted account then got a day later I got the same form (no-reply)letter saying I was suspended.
    I looked and my profile was still up so I quit before they got to it just so I would at least be able to use Buzz.
    I had nearly 4000 people add me on Google+ and had started to make a lot of new friends and was thinking maybe Google did finally "get" social.
    Then they cut me off from all my friends and family, old and new...
    That is the opposite of social.
    I gave them what they asked for (LinkedIn, FB, and about 50 other profiles where I've use the same name dating back to 1997)and they still failed to reply.
    I was good enough to be a trusted tester and stuck it out with Buzz from day 1...even promoted it even (as buggy as it was)
    I was good enough to be invited to G+ and good enough for 4000 people to add me in less than 2 weeks and then I was banned...not good enough for Google's new elite club I guess.
    Way to show your appreciation Google.
    Really tho, this is no way to treat your loyal users....your friends.
    There are only two reasons for a policy such as this and it has nothing to do with spam or fake profiles. John Smith can just as easily be a fake profile and spam just the same as someone who goes by a name other than what is on their birth certificate so those "reasons" don't fly.
    The only reasons to do something like this are 1. to assist the government in locating people and 2. because advertisers want to have everyone's real names so they can ...well ...so they can do what they do... which is (ironically) to spam us.

  6. My real last name has two capital letters and an apostrophe....maybe I should try it

  7. I use my real life name on my Google accounts and I've been a Google Buzz user from the beginning. I was invited to try G+ during the first week but I left when Google started the current craziness by banning friends of mine that I know for years by their pen names. My regret about leaving Google is I have a less than three week old Android phone that I refuse to link to Google so it it pretty much crippled.

  8. I have yet to encounter any problems with G+, but I don't like what I am hearing. The very fact that they aren't telling people why they were banned or suspended is a major issue to me. Thinking of jumpng ship until they sort this mess out or go under.

  9. Doug, you can set up your phone to sync with any e-mail...any navigation/map service, and location sharing site...just as easily as with Google.
    There are heaps of alternatives to google on an Android phone...almost every social site has an android app. I even sync StumbleUpon. There are apps for Tumble,Twitter, Flikr, Yahoo Mail and messenger and more. You can add them to the "accounts and sync" section in "settings"
    Your phone isn't crippled at all without Google.
    I chose to leave behind 4000 followers because I disagree with the way Google is treating not only me but many of it's loyal users. Even if they give in, I may not return. I will never look at them the same way again.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I'm thinking I might just get a "ronald soames" or "reg jackson" or "rick jameson" or some other random named account just to prove a point. FFS rainy, you are more real to me than most people I have ever met online, I don't know your name, I don't wanna know your name, you are rainy, what you write screams rainy, the way you write is rainy. if your name is actually "Sue Migford" well .... there's no rainyness in sue migford, no originality, no personality.

    Likewise I can't get used to Ryan IT Lab's name, it's his family name, I'm not his fucking family, I'm his Buzz follower. I like IT Lab .... IT Lab is the guy whose posts I Like and enjoy reading. D*****y is his sister's brother, his father's son, the guy that takes his neighbour's kid to school once in a while. Don't take this personally Ryan, by I really don't give a damn about that side of you ... unless Mr IT Lab finds an interesting way to tell me in a feed, the humorous thing that happened this morning on the way to little league, he can leave his home profile at home.

  11. After letting me back I am suspended a second time. I lost use of most Google services. I still have chat and Gmail but that's about it. And I have not gotten anything in the way of a response to my appeal. My Buzz has been deleted and most of my photos as well...

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This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two. I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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