Google+ Profile Suspended Horror Story and the Hypocrisy of Google Public Policy

“a name used by an author to conceal his or her identity”

Thank you, +Persian Poetess for your help in obtaining these crucial links contained in this post. I would like to also I would like to apologize to our readers because I am about to get a little personal in this post. Many of you may or may not know, my profile was suspended on Google+, so I cannot post to threads or search Google+. I am angry about what all has transpired. It isn’t my being banned from using Google+, it’s the way Google justified suspending my account–regardless of my presenting evidence to them that I, and others like me, are still within Google policy practices.

Real name vs. nym

Logging on to my Google+ profile, I found the “red block” of death notice from Google:

 I was a little unnerved. I decided to re-read Google’s Public Policy, which states that Google wish(ed) for everyone to “be who they wanted to be” online. However, this isn’t the case. There is a conflict in information. It seems that Google is not honoring their own public policy:

Discussion point #1

“When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous, and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits:

  • Unidentified. Google actually understands that on occasion, we may want to surf the web “without having your online activity tied to your identity.” Wow, that’s really cool, Google. However, I am finding out the opposite, what it means to exist online, behind the safety of nym–a pseudonym—for example, such as AIDY. My official writing pen name. Which is totally verifiable–and not good enough it seems, per Google. 
  • Pseudonymous. “Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about.” Absolutely Google. For people, like me, who has been in a position for a reason to fear for my very life. I do not wish what happened to me to happen to anyone on the planet. Thank you, Google, for understanding that I represent myself as the “nym” AIDY, for my own safety–offline
  • Identified. “There are many times you want to share information with people and have them know who you really are” (ex. dragonbloggers staff), and of course, I understand that if you want to use service that require payment, like “Google Checkout” a nym may not be appropriate in that instance. 
The last line in the article truly confused me. Consider this for a moment: Google+ Project is supposed to be an online social community–Google states, “if you want to be part of a community action project you may ask, “How do I know these other people I see online really are community members?” Hence, protect your identity; also, would you consider Google+ Project to be a “community action project?” It behaves as one. So in this, using my nym “Aidy” is in accordance to Google Public Policy. “Aidy” clearly identifies me amongst my peers, and within the Google+ online community.
With a suspended account, I had to “verify” my online identity. I provided Google with information that would “verify” I am who I say I am:
  • Links to all my online profiles.
  • Including my picture image for my writer’s profile on Dragonblogger.
  • Even my full legal name offline.
 I then changed my profile name to “AIDY” then “AIDY Poetry” because according to policy, I am within my rights to do so.  Below is a copy of my first email response from Google after filing the appeal process form regarding my Google+ profile suspension:

Discussion point #2

Hi,Thank you for contacting us with regard to our review of the name you are
trying to use in your Google Profile. After review of your appeal, we have
determined that the name you want to use violates our Community Standards.
You can review our name guidelines if you edit your name to comply with our policies in the future, please
respond to this email so that we can re-review your profile.” Email dated 08/02/2011
Okay. So I changed my profile name to just AIDY. Just as Google Public Policy states that a “nym”  is okay– as long as it identifies who you are among your peers online. I did and it didn’t work. Google now prefers its users to use “real name” for their Google+ project profiles. Many online users do choose to use their real names for personal and for business purposes–which is also a personal preference. As such, it is my own personal preference, to use my author nym online. Disheartened, I replied using referring to Google+ own Yonatan Zunger thread regarding the use of online “nyms:”

Discussion point #3

“Also, on the subject of nyms, I’d like to remind everyone to look at the actual policy and what it says: “To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you (#13). For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.” Nyms, names by which you’re known in your community, are names which your friends usually call you and so are explicitly OK under this policy.  The implementation has not gone as smoothly as I think it should have – too many accounts were suspended pending investigation (although they should be getting reinstated, too) – but we’re still working out the kinks, here. This was never going to be a simple thing to implement.”
AIDY+:  I know that you all are sorting the chaff from the wheat, but “Google Gods,” I have been AIDY for years online in the poetry circle. My nym is not widely known as others, but I am not a spammer. I am not a criminal. I thought at least you all would understand this enough to sort profiles accordingly. Suspending my profile went against what I read by your own Yonatan Zunger. I am building a name–an image–something Google is well familiar with. I understand your rules. I will do my best to accept. I truly wish that you all would truly consider, deeper, the importance of people like me that have worked on establishing nyms as artist online–which will afford them the safety within their own lives, offline.

Success! I just knew I had Google now because not only did I find “nyms are accepted” within their own public policies, a Google employee states–that using a “nym” online still is completely acceptable!  Still this wasn’t enough. Now, according to Google, I am no longer the nym known as “Aidy,” instead, I am now a “non-user entity.” The explanation:


Discussion point #4

“Hi,Thank you for your appeal. We are unable to approve this profile as it
represents a non-user entity (e.g. business, organization, place, team,
etc.). Our team is actively building an amazing Google+ experience for
non-user entities, and we will have something to show the world later this
year. We just ask for your patience while we build it. In the meantime, we
are discouraging non-user entities from using regular profiles to connect
with Google+ users.”
A “non-user” entity? Last I checked:
  1. I am Aidy. 
  2. I am a writer.
  3. I am a poet.
  4. I am a humanist.
  5. I am not an “entity.” 
Google, if this item list confuses you, please refer to list item #1.

Discussion point # 5

My response:  Dear Google+

This is so funny. Because I am not a “business entity,” nor do I represent a “group.” I am an individual–a human being! If this is the case–then there are many individuals using Google+ to represent their business, [not] as a “non-user” entity–however, they are using the name they use as a business (their well known legal name)–which is a direct representation of their business. I write using a “pen name” socially on the web and I just so happen to have a website. This does not make me a “non-user” entity. I do not understand your response. Please, this is completely different from the explanation by +Yonatan Zunger; which he stated: that my “nym” is acceptable under your current terms of agreement. I will be watching closely if you delete other profiles that are not using their real name(s)–and are functioning under a known nym. I am so saddened and broken behind this, “Google Gods.” Did you even read my timeline? I am discussing  with my online friends the things that are relevant to us all [share pictures, comments, jokes, and “hangouts”].  I am not actively promoting my name as a “business.” I want to know why “nyms” are okay for some, and not [for] others? I am having a lot of trouble understanding this, dearest Google. My name, my nym–is me.

Facebook’s +Mark Zuckerburg is an entity. I am not. Still at the time of this post, Google continues to delete profiles of the “unknown” and well known individuals from the Google+ project.

Discussion point #6 

But in these cases of profile deletions, there have also been reinstatement’s of profiles. In an article written by Marshall Kirkpatrick titled “Google Plus Bans Creator of Firefox, Facebook Product Director, For Using his “real name.”
“Presumably this is a mistake and the famous Blake Ross will be allowed to return to Google’s social network along with the other eight Blake Rosses there once Google leadership hears about this in the morning. As has already been said many times in regards to this policy, though, if you’re not so well connected – then you probably won’t have as much luck.

Really now? I had no idea.

Discussion point #7 

I also found out that as long as my profile is suspended on Google+, I will no longer be able to use Google’s +1 features and applications–that require my having a Google+ profile. I can still use Blogger and gmail services as they are not “attached” to a Google+ profile.  It truly didn’t matter that I could prove to Google, with the utmost certainty, that I “do legally write as” Aidy Poetry. It bothers me that I have to be “famous” to have my profile reinstated.
Listen Google, I want what I value as my most guarded possession. My personal “offline” identity and my personal “offline” private life. This is something we all have to protect–privacy.  My “real-life” is my own regardless of how pedantic or as reserved it is–this is my right to privacy–this is something that still unwilling to give to Google–in totality.

I even included this insightful quote by Adlin Sinclair included within my last correspondence, in defense of mine, and others Google+ profile–It reads:

You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.”

Overall, some of you may think that “it’s Google! Their rules. Deal with it.” I agree. It’s Google, and it’s their rules. I will respect it. However, I only wanted to point out if your policy dictates specifically that nyms are acceptable, then honor your policy. Nyms are crucial for a lot of people–advocacy groups, survivors of abuse, etc. If someone wanted to use “real name” on social media I will advocate and support your rights to do so–provided the provisions are that your “real name” will not be use to supplement data collection (facial recognition, employers, advertisers, etc.), for businesses. Did you know that there are Internet start-ups that are in the specific business to collect and  “store” data profiles on social media users for financial profit? Which of course is another great subject for debate. I am still confident that Google will do what is fair and just. I will always remain hopeful. Its just who I am.

Join in the online discussions regarding Google+ to Stay informed! 

  • Jillian C. York’s  thread regarding Google “guiding their policy” on pseudonymity.
  • Yonathan Zunger’s thread regarding Google’s Public Policy on the use of “nyms.”
  • Sai” thread regarding Google’s “take down” review policies. Noting that it’s real name policy is “harmful to multiple kinds of users, especially several groups of users who are already at high risk.”
  • Geek Feminism Wiki’s “Who is harmed by a “real names policy.”
  • ITP on how businesses use “real names” on social media sites to garner information on user’s/employees online activities.
  •  Violet Blue’s continual discussion on various topics concerning Google’s “failures” in communication.
Image credit: The Guru Quest
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