Google+ relaxes naming rules

Google's social networking platform Google+ will allow selected users to register and maintain an account on the service using a pseudonym, following a partial turnaround in its rules.The Californian company will allow some individuals, primarily people known by a name other than their real name, for example Madonna, to use their better known pseudonym.

Google's social networking platform Google+ will allow selected users to register and maintain an account on the service using a pseudonym, following a partial turnaround in its rules.

The Californian company will allow some individuals, primarily people known by a name other than their real name, for example Madonna, to use their better known pseudonym. The company had previously insisted on users signing up with their real or most commonly used name.

"On Google+, we try to flag names which don't represent individuals, such as businesses or abstract ideas which should be +Pages. Sometimes we get this wrong, so starting today we're updating our policies and processes to broaden support for established pseudonyms," Bradley Horowitz, vice president of Google+, said in a post on the social network on Monday.

If the name a person wants to use is already in use or has been flagged by Google, the company will ask for proof of the established identity, for example, by sending scanned official documentation or references to an established offline identity in print media. Users can also use "proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following", Horowitz added.

The process is not automated or immediate but will "typically get back to you within a few days" once the materials have been reviewed, Horowitz said.

The company also said it would be adding support for nicknames and names written in another script "over the next week".

According to Horowitz only around 0.1 percent of users submit name appeals after signing up for the service.

At launch, Google insisted on people signing up using their real or commonly used name in order to keep the service personal, and in essence maintain a sense of accountability.

However, a number of users complained that there are genuine reasons for wanting to use a pseudonym or other commonly used name, and that the service should allow for the nature of anonymity on the web. Political dissidents, for example, may not be able to speak up against dictatorial regimes without the condition of anonymity.

The company said it would continue to monitor feedback over the usage of names and make changes where necessary.

"To be clear — our work here isn't done, but I'm really pleased to be shipping a milestone on our journey," Horowitz said.

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