Google Plus Deleting Accounts En Masse: No Clear Answers

A number of Google+ accounts have been deleted in the last 24 hours as the new social network struggles with real name policy.
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

A striking number of Google+ accounts have been deleted in the last 24 hours as the new social network struggles with its community standards policy around real names - alienating and frightening the people it aims to serve.

Removed but restored through influence is Limor Fried - AKA Lady Ada / Adafruit Industries: She was recently featured on the cover of WIRED Magazine.

Google suspended Limor Fried “Ladyada” Google+ profile, no show-and-tell tonight… 

Her account has just now been mysteriously restored, though only after a groundswell of complaints. Suffice it to say, the rest of the deleted accounts will not have such well-placed advantages.

Many have now been purged and not restored.

The message I received this morning from the source in my previous Google+ article summarized it,

Google+ suspended my acct "After reviewing your profile, we determined the name you provided violates our Community Standards."

After the next few messages repeating the same thing, it was clear that the dam had burst and Google+ is on an account suspension rampage.

Just Like Facebook's Real Name Hypocrisy

Ex-Google employee Kirrily "Skud" Robert. Irony? The former Google employee that originally applauded Google Plus' statements about real names had their account suspended. Kirrily "Skud" Robert writes in I've Been Suspended From Google+:

So today, I got off a plane this afternoon to find a pile of tweets, emails, and blog comments asking whether it was true that my Google+ account had been suspended. When I managed to get some wifi and check, it turned out that it had been.

They are asking the ex-employee for ID verification. Kirrily "Skud" Robert continues,

It then asks me for my name (uh, don’t you know that already?), email (ditto), link to my profile (ditto), and asks me to provide documentation. I can either give them a scan of my photo ID (obscuring “personal information”, whatever that means), or links to places on the web that demonstrate that this is my name.

They suggest using Facebook (the site that allows Google founder Sergey Brin to go under a pseudonym, and whose own founder has a page for his dog) as evidence. I have something better, though, because I expected this to happen and I had already collated my evidence. I linked to that page and submitted the form.

It raised a chilling spectre in the background about what happens, exactly, when Google suspends your account.

Page 2: [All Google services suspended for some; Coca-Cola's Google+ account "for sale"]  »

Bill Noble writes,

To be clear, the stories we're hearing so far are of people being suddenly frozen out of EVERYTHING, all their data and resources, not just one or a few Google functions. Given who we early adopters are, even a few more days of this unreasonable behavior could abort the whole G+ effort.

Others are indicating uneven application of punitive measures:

When my account was suspended it was only my profile. I could still get to Documents, Calendar and Gmail. My G+ Stream was still updating, I just couldn't post to it.

Madge Weinstein just tweeted,

Just happened to me- but they not only suspended gplus, but rather all google services incl gmail! The notice just said i violated TOS- nothing specific.

Multiple Account Sign-In Breakdown?

It is not a simple matter of using a "real name" - as much of a problematic grey area as that is. Another person cited in my Google+ article has now had their account deleted for the simple reason that they were using Gmail and Google+ with multiple account sign-in:

This is tremendously disappointing for a variety of reasons, not least that the multiple linked login functionality made G+ just about perfect for what I need. I was a big proponent of and encouraged many friends to come over here.

Oh, and for clarity: there was nothing like objectionable content in the suspended account. I simply have details of my life that I would like to put in my PROFILE that I do not care to share with all my contacts. Details that extend beyond Google's privacy controls for Profiles.

Meanwhile, this chilling post is making the rounds on tech messageboards today:

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. (...)

To say that this issue is deeply concerning is an understatement to anyone and everyone that has their businesses and personal lives tied to Google services and have an interest in participating in Google+ - even Limor Fried was participating as herself.

A.V. Flox, occasional contributor to the LA Weekly, LA Times' BrandX, Village Voice Media and section editor at BlogHer has just had her account suspended as well.

Well known nerdcore rapper Doctor Popular lost his account today - like Lady Ada, he's also a personality in tech circles, and a Laughing Squid contributor. He tweeted,

It appears my Google+ profile has been suspended because it lists my name as Doctor Popular instead of Brian Roberts. Totally lamehole.

Would they do the same to Lady Gaga? Currently there are multiple Lady Gaga accounts.

Personally, I doubt it.

Kirrily "Skud" Robert is currently compiling a database of those who have had their accounts deleted over alleged name violations. If you have had your account deleted you can contribute information at the Suspended Google+ Accounts page.

Update: Colleague Ed Bott tells me,

"Meanwhile, this profile is still alive and well, six days after it was created and after many people have reported it."

"And this one has been added since then."

Image by Kevin Dooley, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license, via Flickr.

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