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For the first three years of its existence, Google+ had a somewhat strict (though not very well defined) policy regarding what names they allow users to use within the service. The Google+ help pages stated, among other things, that your username should be "the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you", which they refer to as your common name. As an example, they suggest that someone named "Charles Jones, Jr." could use "Chuck Jones" or "Junior Jones" as acceptable alternatives.

There were several problems with this policy, including:

  • The policy does not make it clear whether a "common name" can be a pseudonym having nothing to do with your legal name
  • Enforcers of the policy were erratic in who they chose to suspend, often suspending people who were in fact using their legal names (or variants thereof)
  • There are many individuals whose lives or welfare would be endangered if they were to post under their legal name.

Many users were driven off during this time either because these policies affected them negatively or because they saw the negative effect the policies were having on other users.

The policy was loosened repeatedly and finally repealed altogether in 2014.





  • 2014/06/09 [L..T] Thanks for nothing, jerkface "In case you missed it, Google CEO Sergey Brin publicly admitted last week that Google+ was "a mistake" for him – one month after the man he hired to run the social network, Vic Gundotra, left the company without explanation."
  • 2011/07/28 [L..T] About "Google Minus." How does this affect me? As a member of a plural system, I would technically not be allowed to sign up as "Noël Dawkins," even though I prefer to use my own name online, rather than presenting as the "front identity." I would probably not be banned, as my name looks like a name, rather than an actual pseudonym, but it would technically be against their strict community guidelines. I suppose that I could simply sign up under the front identity (disclosure: we have already done so), but there is a difference between social networking under that guise, and social networking as myself.
  • 2011/07/27 [L..T] Why it Matters: Google+ and Diversity Just a few days before Google+'s doors officially open on July 31, Google's latest communications from Vic (via Robert) and Bradley on the raft of account suspensions and “common names” policy seem unlikely to put the “identity crisis” to rest. It's certainly a positive sign that they're engaging, and process changes like giving people with names Google doesn't like a week to change their account name before suspending them are certainly improvements. That said, the impression they're giving is that they're going to try to hold the line with the current policy even knowing that it targets transgender people, human rights activists, people at risk for stalking and harrassment domestic violence survivors, HIV/AIDS victims and caregivers, people with names that sound weird to Americans (or for that matter people in Hong Kong who would rather go by their English names)..."
  • 2011/07/26 [L..T] Fraudsters Already Exploiting Google+ It was inevitable. With the creation of Google+, a new social network already boasting over 20 million users, the scammers were sure to follow. Here's a note a probable fraudster sent to reader Geoff through his Google+ profile, informing him that someone died in Africa and he needs to be contacted about a "business transaction" of "magnitude."
  • 2011/07/25 [L..T] Google+ Real Names Policy Is About Brands, Not People Google may have inadvertently swept up some users and handles that were legitimate or simply too innocuous to cause any brand any kind of harm, but I think the intention is clear: to protect brands and businesses from everyday Google service users who might infringe upon their trademarks and brand identities.
  • 2011/07/25 [L..T] Google's gormless 'no pseudonym' policy lead paragraph::A week ago, I was stunned to discover that my entire Google account -- gmail, reader, blogger, Google documents, YouTube, Google Plus (G+), etc. -- was suddenly suspended because their system "perceived a violation."
  • 2011/07/22 [L..T] I've been suspended from Google+ Skud summarizes the circumstances of her suspension from Google+, including her prior employment at Google and arguments in favor of pseudonymity.
  • 2011/07/16 [L..T] The Google+ Controversy & Virtual Worlds – A Question Of Identity excerpt::The avalanche of news last weekend was triggered by the story that Opensource Obscure, a Second Life resident from Italy, had his profile suspended by Google+ because his name "violated community standards." This was followed by reports of the accounts of Second Life users being culled, much in the same fashion as had happened at Facebook weeks ago.
  • 2011/07/11 [L..T] Google Confirms: Non-Real Name Google Profiles Risk Suspension (I.E., Google Still Doesn't Get Social)
  • 2011/07/08 [L..T] Anti-pseudonym bingo “People testing the Google+ social network are discussing increasing evidence that, terms of service requirement or not, Google+ wants people to use their legal names much as Facebook does. Skud shares a heads-up from a user banned for using his initials. Then, for example, see discussion around it on Mark Cuban's stream, Skud's stream and Sarah Stokely's blog.” The post includes a bingo card to keep score of anti-nym arguments.