Print 56 comment(s) - last by nafhan.. on Jul 26 at 10:16 AM

Google has begun banning users en masse from its social network, Google+, for using pseudonyms, or names with added punctuation. Google's response has been to point out that the rules are clearly state in the terms of service -- the only problem, is that those rules fly in the face of internet tradition, and most people don't read them in the first place.  (Source: icanhascheezburger)

+MuscleNerd, a famous iPhone hardware hacker, is among the banned users. His name doubly violates the TOS -- it has punctuation AND it's a pseudonym.  (Source: iPhone Dev Team/+MuscleNerd)

An ex Google engineer also had his account suspended.  (Source: Skud)

As did famous female open source proponent Limor Fried (she is in the rare minority to have her account reinstated, it should be noted).  (Source: Limor "Ladyada" Fried)

But PepsiCo JOBS is still alive and well. We don't know who this "PepsiCo" fellow is, but he sounds like a really entertaining chap.  (Source: Google+)
So much for being the more "open" network

Google Inc.'s (GOOG) campaign to create a more private social network has hit a bizarre roadblock courtesy of Google itself.  The company has begun suspending users from Google+ -- and much more -- for violating its "Terms of Service", which demand users use their real names.

I. What's In a Name?

Some services like Twitter allow celebrities like politicians or actors to "verify" their identity, so people can be confident that who they're speaking to is the real deal and not an imposter.  With Google+, Google takes this a step further, demanding everyone use their real name, and demanding evidence from its former employees and celebrities that they really are who they say they are.

While the idea of identity verification is fairly tried and true, Google's ban on everyday users employing pseduonyms has created a privacy identity crisis for the young service.  And the problem is compounded by baffling inconsistency: Google has reportedly cracked down on some high profile individuals, while sparing others who used nicknames.

Before we go further, let's stop to consider what Google+ is.  Google+ is a social network which uses various Google services like Gmail and Picassa to create a comprehensive set of services that is quite reminiscent of Facebook.  Like Facebook, Google+ employs a clean page look, unlike some competitors which allowed individuals to adopt more colorful, garish themes (here's looking at you MySpace/LiveJournal).

The service is currently in "field test" mode, but has gained over 20 million users.  While that's far short of Facebook's 750+ million active users, it's good enough to place it on a short list of the world's top social networks.

A key to Google+'s appeal is in the fact that it provides a slick interface to share information with custom groups of individuals ("Circles"), which it says (and many agree) provides superior privacy to "other social networks" (aka. Facebook).

But what if you wanted to hide your real name from some (or all) of your cyber-friends and acquaintances? (Note: these are often quite different from your real world friends.)

Google not only does not provide this option to you -- it is actively working to ban any user who tries to use a pseudonym.  It is unclear exactly how many users have been banned -- but it is quite widespread, and the ban list is growing.

II. Why Would You Want to Hide Your True Name?

At this point you may be wondering, what's the big deal?  Why would you want to hide your name?

Well, using a pseudonym has long provided a degree of anonymity -- both online and in the real world.  For example a number of high profile writers use a pen name, which is not a true name.  This manufactured title offers a degree of anonymity and protects the writers' privacy in their personal lives.

On the internet this privacy is often equally desirable.  For most people, if someone skilled wants badly enough to figure out your true identity, they can.  However, using a pseudonym on forums and elsewhere helps protect you from the garden variety cyber stalker, or their ilk.

Pseudonyms are also often used to provide color.  Hackers (both hardware/firmware and software) often adopt a pseudonym, which embodies their larger-than-life digital personality.  And offline, celebrities often do the exact same thing.

III. Tales of the Ban

So far a number of high profile individuals have been banned.  Among them are open-source diva Limor Fried "Ladyada" (aka. "Lady Ada") [source], who recently graced the cover of Wired Magazine, and "+MuscleNerd", a leading (legal) iPhone hardware hacker and member of famous "Dev Team" [source].

In Ladyada's case, at least her account was fully restored post-mortem -- apparently because of her celebrity.

Another high profile suspension has been that of former Google employee -- Kirrily "Skud" Robert.  Mr. Robert joined the banfest when he made the mistake of using his nickname "Skud" as part of his registered name, and had his account suspended last week.  Of course, Mr. Robert also happened to be a vocal critic of Google's hiring practices, so one wonders if that had anything to do with his violation being singled out for suspension.

Google's service department kindly emailed Mr. Robert:


Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name in your Google
Profile. It looks like you have deleted your Google Profile, and thus we
are unable to take further action on your request for us to review the
name in your profile.



The Google Profiles Support Team

The only problem, writes Mr. Roberts, is, "I never deleted my account."  

Google is apparently taking its bannings to an extreme in many cases.  Madge Weinstein, a cult podcaster's pseudonym, writes, "[The supension] just happened to me- but they not only suspended gplus, but rather all google services incl gmail!"

Another user writes:

Dear Google, I would like to bring to your attention a few things before I disconnect permanently from all of your services.

On July 15 2011 you turned off my entire Google account. You had absolutely no reason to do this, despite your automated message telling me your system “perceived a violation.” I did not violate any Terms of Service, either Google’s or account specific ToS, and your refusal to provide me with any proof otherwise makes me absolutely certain of this. And I would like to bring to your attention how much damage your carelessness has done.

My Google account was tied to nearly every product Google has developed, meaning that I lost everything in those accounts as well. I was also in the process of consolidating everything into my one Google account. (…)

In other words, if a user opts to join Google+, they risk losing all of their services.  And even if they manage to convince Google to lovingly restore those services, there's word that the content within (e.g. your pictures in Picasa, your emails in Gmail) may be dead and gone -- purged forever from cyberspace.

To make matters worse, there are a deluge of corporate profiles that blatantly violate Google's terms of service, which Google is taking its sweet time to ban -- for example pages for, Inc.'s (AMZN) Amazon Prime service and a page for The Coca-Cola Comp. (KO).  While both of these pages were eventually removed, you can still find PepsiCo Jobs and Microsoft Office Expert online.

Mr. Robert, having been victimized by Google's draconian TOS rampage, has started a page to collect a list of users' who had banned accounts.  You can find that page here.

IV. Google's Response

Thus far Google seems to be holding firm.  "Infrastructure engineer" Gothwam S, writes:

Hi everyone,

We've seen some complaints regarding profile suspensions, and I want to let you know how to solve this problem. Typically this problem occurs when you edit your name in a way that we no longer accept. In these situations, you may find that your name requires review to confirm that it complies with our Community Standards:

When creating or updating your Google Profile, you may find that your entered name requires review to confirm that it complies with our Community Standards:

1) You’ll be prompted to request a review during the sign-up flow, this will lead to it being reviewed by our team.

2) After 24 hours, your profile will either be live or require further appeal.
3) To request further appeal, click on the link to our appeal form from your Google Profile. Here, you can provide additional information to support the claim that you are using a name in compliance with our policy.

4) Once you file the second appeal your profile will be handled via 1-to-1 communication with Google.

To ensure the success of your appeal, please make sure you are adhering to our Community Standards:

Those community standards are found here.  Those standards, as mentioned state that you must use your true first and last name.  Further, punctuation is prohibited.  So even if I created an account Jason Mick++, I'd likely be banned.  In other words, MuscleNerd's account was likely doubly in violation of Google's strict rules.

The issue here is that most users who sign up for sites, never carefully read the terms of service -- a  fact Google seems oblivious to. And while a link may be provided during the registration process, finding it post-mortem takes much more digging.

Between the lack of clarity in the registration process, the surprise crackdowns, inconsistent policing, sweeping deletions that span all of Google's services, and the post-suspension account purgings, Google is creating a bizarrely Orwellian atmosphere, in which everyday users have to live in constant fear that their online footprint could be deleted due to some "terms of service" violation.

The whole mess brings to mind Activision Blizzard, Inc.'s (ATVI) misguided efforts to make users use their real names in the forums to prevent trolling.  Fortunately, the company had the good sense to drop the effort after mass outcry -- common sense Google has thus far lacked.

The simple solution would be to dump Google+, but that would also be disappointing given that the new network does provide a number of privacy-geared features that Facebook doesn't.  Many users appear to be simply mobilizing to try to force Google into action.

Hopefully Google can fix this mess as soon as possible -- and hopefully it realizes that pointing users to the terms of service page post mortem is not a fix.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Why are people acting surprised?
By SkullOne on 7/25/2011 10:40:43 AM , Rating: 5
We knew this was going to happen. Google even said originally that they would do this and WARNED people about having fake names in Google+. Outrage over something you knew was coming? Hell, I'm happy they're doing this. I don't want G+ to be like FB and allow something stupid like a persons cat asking to friend me to so I have to see "Sleeping on the back of the couch in the sun," every hour.

George Carlin was right, "People are f*cking stupid!"

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By bah12 on 7/25/2011 10:56:34 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, the point of a social network is for you to connect with people that know YOU. Not people that know the alter-ego of you. FB/Myspace was a joke because of this very thing. Google+ has much better controls of your circles so there is no reason to hide your identity.

IMO people masquerading around as someone other than themselves ONLY hurts a social network. It should be a place for people that know you can find you. Allowing fake names takes away from what a social network should be, and really has no place unless you are up to no good.

There are a few exceptions that may benefit from a nick name, but IMO the pros of allowing them doesn't outweigh the cons of the people that will abuse it.

By cjohnson2136 on 7/25/2011 11:10:44 AM , Rating: 2
I would agree I think if they did it so the name on the account was Robert but displayed as Bob would be perfectly acceptable. But if you want to go around calling your +MuscleNerd then you need to just give it up.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By aharris02 on 7/25/2011 1:56:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, but the solution is not to ban or suspend accounts, and certainly not to disable or delete all of a user's Google services.

They should redirect users to a splash page that provides them an explanation of their reasoning & a chance change their profile name to their real name, or give them an option to disable their g+ access.

As a non-g+ user, this is absolutely going to ensure my invite email remains on the to-do list until they figure this thing out.

By SkullOne on 7/25/2011 2:15:55 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, all they did was suspend anything that the profile used. Things like GMail and Blogger still function correctly for anybody that had their G+ account suspended.

Google of course is in damage control at the moment as they should be since they did this is a piss poor way. However, what they are doing is not a bad thing.

By Some1ne on 7/26/2011 9:38:48 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting side-note; Facebook used to have a very similar policy, and any changes made to a user's name would not be applied until Facebook manually approved the change. The effect (and intent) was pretty much the same as in Google+.

I think that policy pretty much went out the window when Facebook rolled out their platform API however, as all of a sudden people needed developer/test accounts and it no longer made sense to try to force every account to have a "real" name.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By invidious on 7/25/2011 11:09:09 AM , Rating: 5
Social media is not serious businsess, stop being a snob about it.

The reason for "your friends making stupid accounts for their pets" is because your friends are stupid. It's not because facebook has failed to restrain their stupidity, that's not facebook's responsibility. The root of the problem is your choice to befriend morons. And the fact that you would actually accept the friend invite from the cat and complain here about getting status updates from the cat makes it clear that you are a moron too. George Carlin was definately right in your case.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By kaosstar on 7/25/2011 11:32:33 AM , Rating: 2
If Google+ wants to "restrain their stupidity" then more power to 'em I say. Having only real people on their network, as opposed to cats, inanimate objects, etc. makes their network look more adult in my eyes. According to you, that may make me a snob, but I've been called worse things, and I'm glad we snobs finally have a social network of our own.

By cmdrdredd on 7/25/2011 5:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
If Google+ wants to "restrain their stupidity" then more power to 'em I say.

So much for your free speach rights eh? How long until it's like china and everything is filtered? cannot have it both ways. Either you stifle free speach online or you allow people to be a-holes, or tards because they can. I'm not willing to give up my right to be an a-hole for some nonsense like "keeping fake friend requests off my page". I can press the ignore button in a fraction of a second then poof...problem solved. If that's too much trouble I don't know how you write a resume or business letter.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By SkullOne on 7/25/11, Rating: 0
RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By Mudhen6 on 7/25/2011 1:35:25 PM , Rating: 3
Clutter what up? Just don't accept the damn pet request. Then there is no clutter. To claim otherwise is spreading BS.

And if, hypothetically, you "have" to accept the pet request because you want to bang the pet's owner, then blame:

1) your own taste in women
2) your own lack of intelligence for not figuring out how to hide stuff on your Newsfeed (mouse-over offending post, close it, click "hide all activity from this user" at prompt)

...for the clutter.

Seriously, you're just making crap up.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By SkullOne on 7/25/2011 2:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
Do you people not have reading comprehension? I never accepted a pet request.

Yes, I can ignore the pet so I don't see 50 pet posts a day however, I shouldn't have to. This is a social network, not let's pretend you are a dog/cat/bird/fish/nutria network.

Is it just me or are the die hard Facebookers are really butt hurt about Google+ actually having better privacy controls, 20+ million users already, and being the fastest growing social network ever?

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By ilostmypen on 7/25/2011 2:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
My biggest problem with facebook is all the game requests. I get fed up with deleting and blocking crap like;

Soandso has sent you an egg. . . come join them on farmville

I block that only to get;

come join them on cityville
come join them on farmcity
come join then on cityfarm
come join then on grapoiahr;ouiab;oh

No matter how much i block these things i keep getting new ones, and If I do play a game I end up getting bombarded with all sorts of requests.

By SkullOne on 7/25/2011 3:07:15 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah that got old. I simply have all games and apps disabled so I don't get a majority of that clutter crap. I still have to see it though on other people's walls though especially when they use those stupid automatic item grabbers like Gift Box+.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By mindless1 on 7/25/2011 3:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
You are wrong. If you don't accept the pet friend request (which it would be annoying to keep being distracted by when taken as a sum of all requests made instead of only that one request) you can still end up with clutter on your wall from someone ELSE having friended the (pet).

The flaw is that on YOUR wall you probably only want the actions of YOUR friends to be seen, not the actions of their friends too.

Mousing over and hiding activity over and over and over again is still clutter you have to respend time getting rid of.

How can you not see that we are entitled to not want to deal with this, that many people don't want to have to take ANY action to clean up someone else's mess?

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By Mudhen6 on 7/25/2011 4:02:18 PM , Rating: 2
Question. Are all these people spamming your Newsfeed really your friends? People you actually talk to?

If no, block them from your Newsfeed. It's not "over-and-over," you just need to do it once.

If yes, stop complaining.

RE: Why are people acting surprised?
By mindless1 on 7/25/2011 7:47:00 PM , Rating: 2
I have a few dizzy silly but hot friends. I don't want to block them and I'm sorry it is so upsetting to you that we are suggesting ways to improve the site.

By Mudhen6 on 7/26/2011 3:09:10 AM , Rating: 4
Two things.

One, you're suggesting to ban fake names/profiles. Nobody here is trying to make Facebook better. I haven't seen any suggestion to "improve" Facebook other than shutting down the pet profiles of your ditzy/hot friends, which is what you want. Because it inconveniences your stalking.

Two, stop blaming Facebook for the fact that your friends are ditzy enough to have/are associated with pet profiles, but unfortunately hot enough for you to be interested in stalking their profiles.

By Mudhen6 on 7/26/2011 3:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
Furthermore, blocking your friends on your Newsfeed does not equal blocking your friend (e.g. restricting them from interacting with or viewing your profile). A Newsfeed block is exactly that - they simply will not show up on your Newsfeed.

It's not a real block.

By cmdrdredd on 7/25/2011 5:14:40 PM , Rating: 3
Social media not serious business? Talk to LinkedIn about that one or the 83+% of employers this past year that googled applicant names to weed out the idiots who post pictures of themselves doing a keg stand or hitting a beer bong.

Problem #1, anyone who takes the internet seriously needs their head examined. It has places for professional business and that'f fine but to generalize social media as being "serious business" is ridiculous...even more ridiculous than that picture of the cat banning you for changing your name to be anonymous.

Problem #2, What I do on my time is my business as long as it is not illegal and does not interfere with my work. Keg stands are legal, smoking crack is not. So why is it a company's business to look at my page and determine whether or not what I do is right or not? This further illustrates the point that you need to have the ability to remain anonymous. Use a different name so people cannot spy on you. Especially if you were famous and just wanted to socialize with friends, you wouldn't want 1,000,000 people to find you and bug the crap out of you. You'd have one page where only your close friends know you by a nickname or a real name (not a stage or pen name). Why is that so bad?

Lets say I wrote the next hit song, the next Justin Beiber if you will *shudder*... Anyway, I am famous but I use a name that is not my own on stage. Why would it be bad to have a page using that name for fans and another fr my close friends and family using my real name that only a few people know? I don't see the problem...

On the other hand, people need to learn how to hide their information on can actually block people from viewing it unless they are on your friend list or family. If you can't do that...yeah you deserve your boss to fire you for being stupid.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
Related Articles

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki