Google's war on anonymity during its involvement in NSA controversy has imploded as its move to force YouTube commenters to use Google Plus - and its unwanted "real name" policy - has backfired.
On November 6, Google changed its YouTube property to only allow comments from Google Plus accounts, thus de-anonymizing commenters, as the principal element of its site-wide comments overhaul.
Google's move to force Plus onto YouTube has outraged the YouTube community - and beyond.
YouTube user fury is fueling this anti-Plus petition with over 112,000 signatures, increasing by the minute. (Update November 17, 10:12am PST: over 167,000 signatures.)
Why am I unable to comment? I have been a YouTuber for 3 years and this is the kind of treatment we "originals" [Before any of the G+ crap came in] receive for refusing to show our name publicly?
We want privacy. I do not want my full name on YouTube. I do not care for Google Plus either so stop shoving it in my face. [Nathan S, UK]
I've watched this Google Product Forum YouTube page increase by 10,000 posts over the last two days, all specifically rejecting Plus and de-anonymization.
I have been asked to change my name for the 9th time now.
Google I do NOT wish to use my real name on Youtube, because of a little thing called PRIVACY and another one called SAFETY. [STOP ASKING ME TO USE MY REAL NAME]
Angry and frustrated YouTube content creator TotalBiscuit with its 1,368,000 subscribers, is not the only artist now directing their video comments offsite to places like to Reddit.
The rage at Google for forcing Plus onto YouTube has been covered steadily in the press for eight days running.
Media outlets specifically covering users' angry rejection of Plus include Guardian UK, Forbes, TIME, International Business Times, CNN, The Verge, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, PC Magazine, TechCrunch, the topic has crowded the front page of sites like Reddit and Slashdot, and more.
Google's own YouTube video about the introduction of Plus comments has over 21,000 unbelievably furious comments.
Google has annotated the video to explain that it appreciates the feedback (!) and will fix the spam problem right away.
The N-word, 85 times
If Google's new Plus comment system was changed to encourage positivity and civility, then make no mistake - it doesn't work.
Plus commenters can post links. There is no character limit. Spam and obscenity is rampant.
Worse, the display of comments favors the popular - as in, the most "controversial" comments - from more active Plus users (Google's promise of "smarter sorting" and "meaningful conversations").
YouTube artist Emma Blackery posted a fun-spirited, peeved anti-Google Plus ukulele song in reaction to the change, and was featured on a few tech blogs to the tune of over one million views, with over 30,000 likes in just three hours (and only 1000 dislikes).
But her friend Hank noticed how things had gone so very wrong in the YouTube Plus comments displayed on her video.
Let’s take a look at the “Top Comments” YouTube decided would be more relevant and important to me:
I think I have identified a couple of problems.
First, I assume Google has a very sophisticated spam filtering program but, apparently, it isn’t triggered by someone just typing the word “n-r” 85 times. So, yeah, let’s put some resources toward that.
(...) Third, and this is maybe the more important point…YouTube is highlighting the comments from popular G+ users and, apparently, they’re dicks. ... Calling her a “Clever little attention seeker” belittling her concerns and repeatedly referring to her as “entitled.”
These guys are who trolls grow up to be.
"Thanks, have a nice day"
With over a hundred thousand people writing comments demanding the return of anonymity, rejecting Google's forced real name use, and specifically pointing out Google's role in the NSA surveillance debacle, you'd think that Google would be concerned about user trust on the issue of personally identifying information.
Before anyone tells me I can't complain about "free" things, and starts to remind me that Google hasn't done anything directly to feed the U.S. Government's flagrant - and growing - surveillance law abuses enacted on civilians, consider this.
No one likes being tricked by a company that leverages a monopoly to force unrelated services and nonconsensual exposure onto people's lives.
Hundreds of thousands (actually, more) are being coerced, through threat of withholding essential utilities (email, work docs, etc.), to consolidate their online identities, tie it to real life and real names, reveal friends and family connections, have communications scanned, be put in advertisements, provide phone numbers and credit cards numbers, and more, while discovering that service settings and privacy defaults are being changed behind the curtain.
And when they complain and demand privacy, the ability to give informed consent, and control over their personal information, they're told they're doing settings wrong, the policies are really for their own good, to send in their IDs for verification, that they agreed to all this in the beginning anyway, it's too late, that this is how everyone does it, and that wanting privacy really means something else because only good people don't have anything to hide.
The thing is, when the Snowden revelations began tearing everything apart, we kind of weren't surprised to see certain companies' names in the NSA lineup.
But to see Google on that slide, for some of us, felt surprisingly personal. One and all, we've each somehow related to Google in a way beyond that of a faceless corporation.
Many are quick to accuse Google of evil, but I think reasoned people must reject this thinking; Google is not a cartoonish D.C. Comics villain.
Google tells us that its world is the best to live in, after all. And the real people, with real hearts, and real families, and real names, and real hopes and dreams that work there, believe it.
And so, standing outside of it, we watch Google make bold gestures of challenging the FBI in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, so Google can publish numbers of dubious, broken, hintingly terrifyingly dystopian data requests made about Google users.
In terms of its behaviors exhibited through the invasive madness and desperation of Plus, where any consideration of the human experience requiring respect for privacy and the sanctity of personal information is absent, the court filing reeks of distraction.
And so as Google progresses with its ceaseless interrogations and rendering of our lives in its datacenter abattoirs, our observations become a bitterly lucid dislocation from the present, a realization that we have taken for granted a situation that is now being revealed in all its hideousness.
What is your full name?
Ok, if you won't give me that, then what kinds of videos do you like to see?
If you don't give me that, tell me when you're going to make a post on someone else's video.
If you won't give me that, then tell me what you actually post on those videos.
If you won't give me that, then let me know what you subscribe to.
Who are your friends? What are their full names?
I'll find out who you are, who your friends are, and what all of you are doing on Google and Youtube some way through this Facebook-esque copycat and sell that information to people you don't know and there's not a god damn thing you can do about it.
Thanks, have a nice day. [brighterside]
Google, are you listening?