Some links for the pseudonym discussion, as well as commentary

(So I don't spam a friend's thread.)

A roundup thread on the entire issue: http://geekfeminism.org/2011/07/10/the-status-of-pseudonymity-and-privacy-on-google/ -- note: some people in that thread are angry. In general it is intended to provide a reference to the ongoing discussion; Google is still shaping their policy.

On anger and tone: http://theangryblackwoman.com/2008/02/12/the-privilege-of-politeness/

Accounts of suspension start here in the geekfeminism thread: http://geekfeminism.org/2011/07/10/the-status-of-pseudonymity-and-privacy-on-google/#comment-14376 -- if you read down, there are later references to some of the suspended accounts being reinstated. Also, +Siderea B. has not yet been suspended for having a pseudonym.

On reactive enforcement of policy

Google allows many names until they are reported, but some things are hard to prove; for instance I don't have any documentation proving that people refer to me as Gretchen S., since it's all only been verbal. It probably helps that S. is my initial; I've seen reports go both ways on using initials and I believe at this point it is very unlikely that I will be suspended for it, though at the beginning of the discussion it would have been their policy to suspend me. I could have taken Gretchen Smith and have had it be much more likely that I would never be challenged, but that would be lying.

If you can be suspended for using a pseudonym, then reporting someone for taking a pseudonym that looks like a real name is another way to silence people, and since minorities disproportionately want the protection of a pseudonym, it will most often be used to silence minorities. Minorities are not the only people with issues: this is a crucial concern for doctors among other professions that have a legal requirement to sequester their professional role from their personal role.

On How This Is Shaping Up (Not Evil, I Devoutly Hope)

I have seen other evidence in other threads (more broad in shape and context so I'm not referring to them here) that Google's trying very hard not to Not Be Evil; they do not wish to actively exclude anyone who is acting in good faith. Basically they seem to be trying to shape policy so that they can allow pseudonyms while banning griefers who happen to use pseudonyms as part of their griefing. "Police the actions, not the names" is a concept that crops up a lot. That's what they seem to be doing now, but they are still shaping their policy. It's pretty clear that many people at Google are aware that people who use pseudonyms are not automatically griefers. I just think that whomever set the policy wasn't aware how important pseudonyms can be to many people.

I do feel that being unaware was a little bit obtuse, since it is their job to understand these issues, and this is an ancient issue that has been discussed and discussed and discussed in every community that ever had pseudonyms. There are probably 19th century broadsides discussing this topic and more to the point it's a common part of online culture. If they had a policy that everyone must reveal their home address and phone number to the public, it would be a no-brainer to say it was a violation of privacy. However, many people have full names that lead to just those things, and not because they have consented to it. This is aside from the entire issue of separation of roles that every author with a pen name knows about.

'Facebook does it.'

What makes this different from the mandatory real names on Facebook is that Google is largely public and hence the risk of using a real name is much, much, higher here. All of my Facebook posts are safe behind a wall. 'Only post privately' is not a true solution and turns me into a second-class citizen; I think I have things to say that I should be able to say in public, but I have had enough bad experiences as a female on the Internet that I simply don't like to use my full name casually in public. Requiring me to do so silences me.

Also, I have many, many, reasons to want Google+ to be a better place than Facebook, and forcing real names is one thing I hate about Facebook even though at least it's kept private there. I LOVE the public community that G+ is fostering, and have met many people who are not friends-of-friends or in my web of trust at all who are delightful and I want to follow and read and talk with. That sort of easy way of finding people is unmatched by sites like Facebook. I am able to do it because I can maintain basic levels of privacy while still interacting in public.

Being open, accountable, and private is not a contradiction.
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