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The situation with Thomas Monopoly's account was resolved. Here's the story from his viewpoint: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/bvqdos . About the image in question, in his write-up he said "I too found the image bordering on the limits of what is legally permissible and hoped to highlight the fact that it is allowed to exist within a grey area of legality." Um, maybe don't upload images like that?
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112 comments
 
Working on my opinion... Thank you for making this right.
 
This webpage is not available
We must through GFW...
 
+Matt Cutts ... I'm glad that was cleared up but there is a major discrepancy with policies. Google can knowingly allow convicted sex offenders for c-porn on the site but accidentally flag someone for c-porn? I brought this up to 3 Googlers 3 weeks ago and was told they would look into it. No response.
 
Matt, I really appreciate how even 'high-up' people in the Google tubes like yourself respond to the little people! Once you lose that personal touch, all is lost.
 
Dan Soto, I'm not familiar with the first point you mentioned; is there a link?

Chris, one thing I love about Google+ is that I've seen more and more Googlers interacting with people outside Google and trying to answer questions or help. That's a great thing to see.
 
They are only responding when someone made a BIG deal about it. I'm about to go the same route with proof and what kind of reaction we get. I went through the right channels when I discovered there was a convicted sex offender here and got disregarded
 
+Matt Cutts No...it wasn't a public issue. I privately brought it to the attention of a few of you....
 
Rather than Matt's overly-simplistic “maybe don't upload images like that,” I'd instead suggest: “never trust a company to host content that asks them to take chances.” Because most companies won't take any chances for their customers.
 
Who is Thomas Monopoly? Why is he so important to get the personal attention of two very busy Googlers, out of the now 20+ million users of Google+? Sorry if this sounds naive, but I have no idea why all the hullabaloo? Update: Oh, I see Matt's response that there's a ton of interaction going on between employees and users. Cool.
 
+Tony Zeoli because he made a big scene on Twitter... he got their attention. I'm extremely pissed, however, that I did things the right way and was disregarded.
 
+Dan Soto A "convicted sex offender" could be anyone from an 18-year-old male who had consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, all the way to the worst kind of child molesters. What is your argument supporting the view that this particular person should not be permitted on Google+, specifically?
 
+Dan Soto Are you suggesting that Google should block convicted criminals from ever using any of their services because they have done something in the past? Or are you referring to someone that actually had photos up in their albums?
 
+Matt Cutts I know! It's a great sight to behold. On a side note, I want to +1 your introduction on your profile, but I can't :(
 
I too am still formulating an opinion. Will sleep on it and post in the am.
 
"maybe don't upload images like that?"
I disagree. He was trying to call attention to the problem, and that can only be done by describing the actual problem - which, if what he says is true, he did in the least harsh way possible. There's a difference of posting one image from the legal grey area, in appropriate context, for educational purposes, and uploading a whole gallery of cp.
 
Oh look, G+ is having its very own twitchhunt.

+1 to the twits
 
Is this person under a court order banning him or her from participation on a site like Google+? If not, are you asserting that Google should take unilateral action to ban a person who has not been placed under such an order?
 
+Dan Soto Thanks for the update. Didn't know how that happened. Clear to me now. On his blog post, he said something about going back to posting about tech--is he a famous tech blogger? I guess I'll go do some research on the subject and learn more.
 
And in a strange twist, one of the images is still in his account, marked "© all rights reserved", yet the photographer isn't even credited.
 
+Lauren Weinstein I have no clue. I don't know the person. I just happened to accidentally stumble upon the fact that he's convicted of that charge.
 
I read Thomas Monopoly's story. The reaction he faced is no different than what is commonly experienced by the IU Kinsey Institute in my town. I know a photographer who was temporarily banned from FB over his boudoir portfolio. Apparently arms crossed over breasts was considered too risque for the mainstream.

The common sense rule for artists and academics needs to be supported. There are other people using Google+ besides bloggers and programmers.
 
+Dan Soto we're so alike, not a day goes by without me stumbling across someone's felony sheet.
 
If he is not under such an order, I do not see any justifiable reason for him to be banned from this or any other site absent ToS violations or other "bad" behaviors on the site. The same would be true for any other convicted criminal who has served their time and is now free. Google is not a police authority or court.
 
+Steve Daley This was quite accidental. This person had circled me and when I went to circle back, noticed his employer listed Starbucks. So, at the time I had made several posts about Starbucks and wondered if he was some corporate guy so I Googled his name. The first hit for his name showed his conviction page from the State he was arrested in.
 
One aspect, that an outside viewer can not overlook with the development of american culture over the past 50 years is the fascinating/absurd discrepancy between a growing obsession with sexuality and violence in public culture and - in parallel - a growing puritanism expressed in corporate policies and public statements of political leaders and celebrities.

This is bordering on the schizophrenic. Actually it would be funny, too, if it wouldn't cause so much harm to the American people - individually and as a culture.
 
+Michael LaFleur - Google has never been particularly sensitive to creative types. One random example is the Google algo punishing photography portfolio sites for being light on "content." Because y'know, content only comes in text form. ;)
 
+Lauren Weinstein And I agree, really. My frustration, however, is stemming from the fact that, on some sites, it is prohibited (facebook for example prohibits convicted sex offenders) so, when I presented the information to inquire if something needed to be done, I was basically ignored. I also asked if there was another procedure necessary to report this and was never answered. The only two answers I got were "Hmmm, yes, I'll forward this." and another Googler who tagged another person responsible for it. I expected to at least get an answer and policy clarification. This is not just the "Billy stole my watergun" type of charge but it wasn't necessarily a physical charge either. All I asked for was clarification on something that could be serious if not handled correctly. I went through the proper channels and was not answered. That's where the frustration lies.
 
Thank you for addressing this story and citing the link. It was a curious story to stumble upon, and I'm glad there was more to it. I'm also glad it was resolved!
 
I only hope the details of this story gain as many eyeballs as the initial furore. 
 
+dan soto I still fail to see an argument for banning the user you referenced. They were convicted, paid their debt to society, were released (under supervision) with a lesson that it was wrong, and a promise not to do it again (just like, say, a bank robber or a drunk driver), and they should be banned from a (COPPA-protected) gathering place for adults...why, exactly? The irrelevancy of the two things is mind boggling, *particularly* in light of the revelation of google's automated detection tools that make + probably the *least* likely space for this individual to engage in any simular sort of activity now, or in the future. If they're going to relapse, I have strong doubts that they would have success doing so inside the corporate owned confines of one of the most efficient data mining organizations, ever, whose vested interest lies with the detection and eradication of that very sort of activity. It's tantamount to cracking open a six pack on the steps of the police station.
In the end, it seems you're wanting a corporation to punish this individual for a crime they haven't (and may not ever) commit.
 
+Jonathon Barton Understanding that may have been typing your response as I was adding more explanation; I'm not necessarily asking for anyone to banned. I asked for a policy and procedure ruling and was disregarded. That's where my frustration is.
 
And it took me a lot longer to swype that on my tablet than it took lauren to type her response, and yours after, even. :)
And I can't say iI'dexpect a response. Seems like the sort of ”hmm, hadn't thought of that yet. We'll take it under advisement” kind of thing that you never hear anything else over. Not cuz google doesn't care or it's ignoring you. More that they're *big*, and you aren't in the feedback loop. It got pass on to the people who decide those things, and that's that... *shrug*
 
And really, my grammar is much better when I'm not laying in bed drawing little loops on a touchscreen. :)
 
"One random example is the Google algo punishing photography portfolio sites for being light on "content."

Anthony Citrano, we actually have a webmaster video about that coming up. :)
 
By the way, I'm a him, not a her, but I'll respond to "Lauren" regardless ...
 
+Jonathon Barton FYI...Lauren = Male. Anyway ...Being that two people responded and decided to include a 3rd, told me that their wasn't a clear policy in place. I would have expected that, since I was the one to bring that lack of clarity into question, that I would be one person, at least, that they would get back to as a policy.

Trust me when I tell you that I more than understand the "big" and "not in the feedback loop" idea. I worked for a web startup that had 30,000 people to give feedback to. I had to pick my cases when it was necessary to provide feedback as well. However, if I took the responsibility to at least respond to the person in the first place, then I also took the responsibility to follow up.
 
Thank you, +Matt Cutts , I will be very eager to watch it, because I'm at my wits' end trying to do everything right. (While being consistently skunked by people who break the rules.)
 
Haha! THis looks fun! Will definitely try this out later.
Dan Soto
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+Melanie Oliver yeah..like we haven't see you spam that exact same content on 500 posts already. Here is a prime example of a profile that needs to be removed.
 
One of the reason Facebook users open a Google plus account is they are bored of being banned without having a chance of getting their account back. It's specially true for artists. I'm glad to see Google is aware of the problem and tries to be wiser than FB's robots.
 
Hi +Matt Cutts I don't want to discuss this particular case at all but I do want to address an issue that this case pointed out to be really necessary.

Given the importance of our "online lives" nowadays and given the fact that many of us (including me) has given Google most of our online identities I believe that Google needs to have a costumer support center where this kind of issues can be addressed privately and without having to make a big noise on social networks.

When I read this story I was seriously scared for my data, since all my main services on the web belong to google. A Costumer Support center is key to address this kinds of issues and misunderstandings. Please consider this request.
 
I obviously don't know the ins & outs of Google, but my guess is G+ will not be very supportive of "grey area" adult content and certainly borderline-CP for one simple reason: Google for Education. EDUs and K-12's are a big part of Google Apps adoption these days, and K-12's especially must abide by very strict standards for appropriateness of content and other regulations revolving children and students (CIPA, COPPA, etc.) I have to expect there will be some G+ functionality for Google Apps domains (I certainly hope so) and Google's not going to want to alienate those organizations.
 
Glad it worked out, that was pretty generous all-told...but I'd have to agree with your statement, Matt, "Um, maybe don't upload images like that?" Yeah....maybe. Ya think? I don't think much more awareness on the issue of this aberrant behavior needs to be raised (hence the strict laws on the matter, but I digress).
 
I agree with +Jaime Creixems that the particulars of the case are not particularly important. I had the same reaction too, pure horror at the thought of being locked out of my Google account without any recourse or even information about why. I get the shivers just thinking about it.

You can't help but look at how much time and data you have invested in your Google account, especially with Google+ amping up that engagement level, and NOT have at least a little fear about something happening to your account even by some accidental glitch.

I don't know the best solution, but a customer support center seems like a good move, even if it is pay as you go support. The good news is that this inspired me to update my backups. :)
 
"Um, maybe don't upload images like that?"
Is this the real response from Google?
This comment appears to be loosely made and little feckless. The account termination without reasoning, incommunicado state he was in with Google and ordeal he went through doesn't add up to this.

If Google believed their process of flagging down accounts with possible ToS violations was right, then why did they act so hastily now? What was the reason?
 
I'd like to +1 the suggestion the Google needs to provide more personal support on a number of it's products. Nice that there's a higher level of interaction between Googlers and Commoners on G+, but it wouldn't be my first port of call to resolve, say, a webmaster issue.
 
"Umm, don' upload pictures like that" is your excuse? Sad. Borderline legal is not illegal, and legality is a boolean.
 
i have not seen the picture, but still in total shock, internet weirdos...i thought i was the only one that got weird photos via the internet.
 
hot chicks please send all photos to largestpeen@yahoo.com thanks
 
is that pc oh no...peen is a large car in the neighborhood...just sayin
 
Yes, GFW, We must through...
 
+Anthony Citrano , I agree. If you're expecting Google to be anything but a prude, you're nuts.

One solution is for people to host their own sites and link the content. Use any of the cheap/free all-in-one platforms. Most have excellent photo album and blogging functionality.
 
+Dan Soto So you've never left a controversial question unanswered? I actually find that hard to believe. Now don't get me wrong, I do agree that some policy questions need absolute clarity, but I also think that some controversial questions (and/or legal questions) are better left unanswered until/unless there is an actual real problem. 
 
+1e100
Great to see this handled by the "Face of Google". 
 
It's really sad that Google had to compromise like this, with a clearly disturbed individual. But I don't blame them, I blame the stupidity of everyone that believed his story, and the laziness (or plain malevolence) of the "journalists" that treated that story as fact.
 
Well said +Jaime Creixems. The issue that is most worrisome here is the lack of support. I enjoy Google products and find them to be very useful and beneficial - Android, Gmail, Docs, Picasa, and so on. Consequently, I do not want to even begin to imagine having to go through such a headache to regain access to this information if I something like this happened to me. Improved support would probably go a long way towards avoiding these issues in the future. While it is admirable that big names such as Matt and Vic got involved to resolve the issue, I can't help but wonder if they have bigger problems to focus on than support calls.
 
I don't really understand where you are coming from with that comment +Vaggelis Kapartzianis. If you are saying that Thomas Monopoly is a "disturbed individual" I can only guess that you did not read the Twitlonger link entirely. As it is described, the issue is a single picture which was used for an academic paper about pornography, not a treasure trove of CP. I don't think that Google is going to "compromise" with someone unless there is a good reason; namely that a mistake was made and needed to be rectified.
 
+Steve Hamilton Things may not be as they appear to be, but I don't wish to talk about it any further, here.
 
what do you guys think they do ALL DAY? they address these kinds of issues; just because it doesnt happen light-speed fast doesnt mean in any way, shape, or form that they dont listen, arent thinking about it, and aren't addressing it. this kind of thing takes nuance, legal council, and supreme amounts of programming to rectify. those talking about lack of support from google, i must say, i seriously have no idea what you could possibly be talking about. try getting anywhere with any other company- and you will truly see lack of support. These guys bust their asses and are amazing at what they do. from the lowliest googler to +Vic Gundotra i've seen nothing but the best levels of support across all of their various platforms.
 
Man this dude used Twitlonger for THIS? That's really getting carried away.
 
People might not like this, but I agree with Matt... "Um, maybe don't upload images like that?".... If you post something that is a gray area, then don't take issue when something happens... You knew it was risky when you posted it... People are a bit ridiculous to be mad at google for this. They were doing their job... Obviously the people at google are level headed and able to correct the issue when it was pointed out, but why be mad that they did it in the first place... what do you expect?... If you want to be controversial, expect the controversy....
 
I am a newbie please help. familiar greetings to all .. ^ _ ^
 
I just hope that Google considers an account FREEZE as a response to stupidity, rather than a total account LOCK-OUT.

Clearly this guy wasn't abusing the service or doing anything malicious. He was just stupid.

Withholding all of his personal data from him as a response is heavy-handed and draconian and puts a chill on people's trust in moving to the Google Cloud.

What if I mis-interpret the ToS about what's acceptable and get flagged? What if someone with malicious intent finds a way to insert content in my account to get me suspended?

I would expect that I'd still be able to access my data while appealing my case, even if I was frozen out of using the services.
 
Oh the drama. His first outcry was so convincing ... I guess there was something to learn for everyone. Thanks for helping on your part Matt.
 
If people don't test the boundaries of acceptability, then the window will keep narrowing and narrowing - the only way to determine what the actual range of acceptability is, is to post borderline items and see what happens. To suggest otherwise is to cultivate an atmosphere of fear that invites excessive self-censorship by posters, and the suppression of free expression. Google+ needs to allow for the removal of items deemed unacceptable, without any further penalty to the poster, so that the boundaries can be repeatedly tested and calibrated by users.
 
Does Facebook have these issues too?
 
Matt, thanks for the update. In his first post T. Monopoly didn't indicate that he had been pushing HARD against the ToS in the way that he was. This does make Google's account suspension seem WAY more reasonable.
 
Honestly, if there's ever any sort of issue with an account, gmail should be left alone for the duration of the appeal process. All the other services, people can pretty much live without for some length of time, but if you're like me, your vital communication all runs through gmail.
 
I agree with Matt. He shouldn't post images like that and use "education" as an excuse.
 
+Claudio Ibarra Especially ironic after considering that Google Voice is advertised saying you'll never have to change numbers again.
 
+Claudio Ibarra Good point. A good question to ask is if an account is suspended, does that shut down one's Android-based phone? First thing you have to do when activating your phone is put in your gmail address.
 
Jaime Creixems, while I agree that Google could always provide more and better user support, I really don't think that was the root issue in this case. Once you're talking about potential child pornography, U.S. law compels companies to react in certain very specific ways.

To the person who said my comment appeared to be "loosely made and little feckless": I wanted to make sure that people got an update but I didn't want to write a ton about how Google handles potential child pornography. There are some really strict laws about child pornography and I'm not an expert on them. If you're looking for a (personal, non-official) discussion of some of the issues in more depth, I wrote a little bit here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2810256 . That thread on Hacker News also has some good discussion. Hope that helps.
 
I hope that the intention for that guy is good. I happy to know that Google protects their users especially on this type of act.
 
+Matt Cutts When you read the responses in your posts, do you pass the relevant ones on to decision-makers? The total account shutdown including gmail and voice was something that I was completely unaware of, and it really chills me that I could lose access to all my email (I've used gmail for my business exclusively since 2008). I have no intention of ever posting pics like that, or doing anything to violate ToS, but lately, I'm hearing more and more stories of seemingly random and baseless suspension of accounts.
 
Matt, are you implying that Google did nothing wrong in this situation, and it was entirely Thomas' fault for posting artwork and subsequently having his entire account deleted without any chance of appeal?
 
After reading all of the comments here, I think one of the takeaways is that users wish for better customer support. If we're going to trust putting all of our data in your cloud, we need human support for when data is removed or accounts are terminated. While not entirely related, I had my AdSense account disabled and had a similar experience - no human support, just automated emails saying an automated algorithm detected a problem and that's it. It really shakes my confidence in Google as a whole that accounts are terminated based on algorithms and there's no chance for human interaction from Google short of a social media outcry ala Thomas Monopoly. Trust is paramount for cloud computing, and humans tend to trust humans more than algorithms - I'd even be willing to pay for support because I find my data & online identity valuable enough.
 
Matt Cutts - I bet there'd be a lot of interest in a simple chart with the top things that would get one's account suspended. If that existed (and maybe it does already) people could do a self audit if they're worried about getting switched off.
 
"Do no evil" is dead.

Google has shown that it can and will close your account on mere whimsy. Depending on Google, therefore, is like playing Russian Roulette with the information you've entrusted into Google's care. Google should instead give advanced warning and error on the side of protecting the user. If it feels that certain information is inappropriate, the proper response is to make it accessible only to the user. The current "salted fields" approach is wrong and may even open Google to legal liability.
 
"Do no evil" applies to both the company (Google) and its users. If the users can't even bother to read the ToS and then abide by the rules, what do you expect will happen?

The amount of bitching going on here is astounding, considering NO ONE is forcing you to use Google's services, most of the time the services are of no out of pocket cost to the user (unless you opt to pay for more advanced features/services), and the rules are clearly stated.

Kudos to Google's staff for remaining professional in their responses in these threads. The fact that anyone from Google addresses this mob in an official capacity speaks volumes about the length Google staff will go to set everything right.
 
By your reasoning, Dan Oglesby, in the Java patent dispute between Google and Oracle, as soon as Oracle suspected that Google was in violation of its patents Oracle would have been justified in using a "kill switch" (assuming it has one) to deactivate all Android phones.
 
+Jonathan Story +Claudio Ibarra If you can't live without your Google services, you'd better have a backup plan. No backup plan? That's entirely your fault and your problem, and you'd better read up and follow your ToS to the letter to ensure continued service.

You have the option to set a third-party email address for recovery purposes in Google, as well as linking your mobile phone for SMS notifications and recovery purposes.

Again, everyone wants to complain and rail against Google, but this is the fault of the users, and their inability to take responsibility for their data and online presence.
 
Dan Oglesby, Having to constantly monitor my data and back it up locally defeats the entire purpose of cloud computing, doesn't it? I don't store much that's truly critical in the cloud, and I back up what is, but that doesn't mean I don't care if I lose access to the rest.

I agree that Google is doing a great job responding. I agree that it's awesome that these services are (nominally) free.

I disagree with the idea that people should just shut their mouths and leave if they don't like something about the service or terms. For the most part, people aren't just bitching because they have an axe to grind with Google. They're legitimately concerned and think this service that they enjoy using and rely on can do better. Google deserves to hear that feedback.

People can THEN decide, based on how Google responds, whether the response is satisfactory or whether they would rather leave.
 
+Claudio Ibarra I expect this of any company or person that I do business with. If you violate the trust you have with the other party, expect consequences. Apple does it, Microsoft does it, open source developers do it, etc. Violate Amazon's ToS for their "cloud" services (EC2, EBS, S3, etc.) and see what they do with your account and data.
 
"Who would suffer if the policy were instead to delete the offending material and send you a notification saying that said material violates the ToS and that you cannot keep said material in the cloud (and must instead store it on your own space)?"

Claudio, if the offending material turned out to be child porn, that notification you're asking for could potentially be illegal. The U.S. laws on child porn can be harsh in very unusual, unexpected ways. The discussion at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2810256 covers some of this, but a specific comment you might want to read is http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2810822 . If you'd like Google to behave differently when confronted with potential child pornography, in many ways you'd be better off lobbying Congress to change the laws.
 
+Gabe Small If you depend on that data in the cloud for your livelihood, then no, monitoring your data and keeping it safe outside the cloud doesn't defeat cloud computing, it's a part of it! Data is useless if you can't retain it and use it.

I never said people should shut their mouths. There are better ways of filing a complaint or suggestion than whining about it in a public forum. When you see the same people whining and complaining about the same thing over, and over, it's just noise. File the complaint or suggestion through official channels, where it's more likely to count.
 
I do understand a want for customer service to deal with issues where the automated system may have closed an account that wasnt neccessarily in violation... But... Most of us are enjoying our google products for free... Its kind of hard to ask for better customer service on a free product... Do you think this customer service center will be staffed by volunteers? I'm gonna guess no... They will probably want to be paid... Maybe those asking for this advanced customer service can offer their time as volunteers...
 
+Dan Oglesby Hmm, seems to me the only reason Thomas Monopoly got a satisfactory resolution was by "whining and complaining" publicly.

If it's just noise to you, mute the posts about it. Simple.
 
I think Mr. Monopoly is an idiot, but at the same time Google has to understand there needs to be some form of communication. If you want to be better than facebook, keep a line of communication open with users. The act, and ignore method is exactly what facebook has been doing, and if you want to beat facebook you have to do things better than they do, not just barely clear the same bar of standards set previously.
 
+Matt Cutts Does the law force you to disable all access to the user's account? I don't know the law, but it seems to me that since you have separate services, blocking the service containing the flagged content and freezing the rest ought to be adequate, no?
 
+Gabe Small As stated by Google, the only thing Thomas Monopoly got was attention, the result (the way I read it) would have been the same.

Since the whining is done in replies to someone I'm following, I'm not about to mute my person of interest to drown out the mob.
 
+Claudio Ibarra I am curious to know if you had a third party email address set up as part of your recovery process through Google? Did you register your cell phone number for alerts and recovery through Google?

These preferences can be found in your Account Settings > Security section.
 
+Gabe Small Again, I'm not about to mute an entire post with comments from someone I'm following. If I could mute individuals, I might in the future. For now, I'm content to let G+ play out in front of me, and give me a sense of what is to come.
 
Seems to me Thomas Monopoly got more than attention. His case and others have triggered a discussion that has led Google to review its policies and try to make them better.
 
+Dan Oglesby You seem to be quite enjoying yourself engaging the "noise" anyway. ;)
 
Thomas Monopoly also got revealed as a huge idiot, IMO. He got more than he bargained for with his campaign of SPAM on Twitter and elsewhere.
 
I also agree with Matt. If you want to test limits, you are sometimes going to get tackled. More than naive to be surprised.
 
+Gabe Small Yes, I have been known to engage the masses at will from time to time. :-) It's probably time for me to bow out of this thread, I've said what I wanted to say.
 
> Um, maybe don't upload images like that?

I disagree. It's apparent that the image was part of a study on human sexuality and differing attitudes towards it over time. I find Google's policies with regards to what images are and aren't allowed on Picassa to be problematic for the very reason that it makes conversations hard to have.
 
Please add me on Google +, I am new here and need more friends :) thanks
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