Real names and Google+


In July 2011, the established writer GrrlScientist tried to log into her Google account and found that it was suspended, barring her access to Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, Google Reader, and the newly launched social network Google+. It turned out that the reason was then when Google launched its Google+ social network in June 2011, it included among its terms and conditions a requirement to use "the name your friends, family, or co-workers call you". In July 2011, Google began suspending the accounts of anyone using a pseudonym, and even though "GrrrlScientist" was a well-established identity that held copyrights, signed contracts, received payments and postal mail, and presented lectures, Google refused to accept it. As she researched the case further, she discovered that even people using their real names were being suspended if someone at Google thought the names sounded like a pseudonym. 

Google argued that requiring real names would promote civility and good behaviour on its service. However, pseudonyms are used for many legitimate reasons. People may want to avoid harassment and discrimination, or, in the case of whistleblowers or protesters in hostile situations, protect themselves form recriminations and guard their own safety. In 2013, Google began relaxing the rules to allow nicknames, maiden names, and other established names. In 2014, Google finally responded to user complaints and reversed the policy.

tags: Google, real names, pseudonyms, community, culture, online abuse, women

Writer: GrrrlScientist, Jillian C. York, Violet Blue

Publication: Guardian, EFF, ZDNet

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