About names, Google Plus's "Community Standards" document [1] says "Use the name your friends, family, or co-workers usually call you."

Evidently this is not how Google is actually handling matters. [2] [3] [4] Quite the contrary, they appear to be disabling the Google Plus accounts of people who clearly and demonstrably set up their profile under the name by which they are best known in multiple areas of life.

This is unjust, and those of us not directly affected by it are obliged to note that it's unjust. A Google Plus that reserves to itself the right to capriciously disable the participation of people in my social circles, despite thorough evidence that their profile name meets Google Plus's declared standards, is not an entity I am inclined to trust.

In fact, the preponderance of evidence is that even the kind of flexible "real names" policy that Google (falsely) claims to be following acts to systematically disadvantage vast numbers of people--ranging from the marginalized and the disadvantaged to people with the misfortune to be named something common like "John Smith." [5]

If you are enjoying Google Plus and you think this isn't your fight, you're mistaken. Someone you care about on this service--one or more of the people you joined in order to interact with--is now, or will be, adversely affected by Google's carelessly-considered policies and feckless behavior in this matter. They may not be sharing this fact with you, but it's true nonetheless. You owe your friends something better than your silence.

What Google Plus actually needs is a policy that discourages identity hacking--sockpuppetry, imposter games, and other exercises in bad faith. Google needs to get out of the business of deciding, on a planet comprising nearly 200 legal jurisdictions and innumerable cultures and subcultures, what particular strings of characters constitute "real" names. Google is no more equipped to adjudicate this on a global basis than they are prepared to administer livestock inheritance law in Ulan Bator.

It's been observed by many people that when you're getting nifty web services for free, you're not the customer, you're the product. Google has a chance here to do better than that by its users. Let's see if they do.

[1] http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?answer=107107

[2] http://infotrope.net/2011/07/22/ive-been-suspended-from-google-plus/

[3] http://infotrope.net/bio/my-name/

[4] http://infotrope.net/2011/07/24/more-comments-on-google-plus-and-names/

[5] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F
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