Doing Time in /usr/bin/jail: When Google+ Suspends Your Account

Editor’s note: This weekend, Google+ started cracking down on users who were flagged as having non-real names. A huge number of people have reported having their accounts disabled, and one of them was a member of the Livid Lobster team. She tells her story below…

Google+ is the new shiny social network that was recently opened up by Google. I was as happy as every other geek who got an invite to get in. Within a week, I was addicted to the real-time status updates, happy photo-posting and tagging, and hacking, I mean, updating of my profile. There were some fun discoveries to be made on Google+, like being able to add multiple photos as your profile picture. Add a few and click on them and they rotate! Pretty neat! The interface was quite clean and who doesn’t love dragging and dropping friends into circles?

The new environment was an exciting platform to help me get back into creating content, adding comments, and just contributing to the community as a whole. But it all halted yesterday when my friend noticed that my account was suspended. I was out (and away from a desktop computer) yesterday, so I was using just the mobile app. My friend, Josh Long, noticed that my account had a 404 error. I didn’t see or notice this because everything worked perfectly fine on both the web app and the native app. I was able to +1 posts and create status updates on the mobile version, at least I thought I could!

Once I had access to my desktop, I saw the big red box saying that my profile was suspended.

Your profile is suspended

After reviewing your profile, we determined that the name you provided violates our Community Standards.

If you believe that your profile has been suspended in error, please provide us with additional information via this form, and we will review your profile again.

So I didn’t put in my full last name. I had “.net” in there instead because it didn’t let me leave it blank. I see that I am at fault. I was in violation of this:

Display Name
To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family, or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of these would be acceptable. Learn more about your name and Google Profiles.

After reading this, I updated my profile to include my last name and filled out their form. It’s been over a day and half and I haven’t gotten a response yet. No reply saying that they’re working on it, or they received my form. My account status is kind of in limbo right now — not deleted, but not visible to the world either.

Wouldn’t it have been more considerate (customer-service-wise) if Google flagged these accounts, and put a warning on their profiles? This gives users a chance to fix their violation, and then Google can run their script again to see if users complied. Instead, users were accused and suspended before even given the chance to make any corrections. I felt like I was thrown in /usr/bin/jail without any warning (or even that one phone call).

I understand, this is Google’s product, and they can proceed how they like. But if they want to foster a positive experience within a community, this may be one wrong move. The happiness I felt using Google+ has quickly diminished as I experience this guilt they’ve put on me for such a small crime.

Suspended Accounts

So, what does it feel like having a suspended account? The good news is, it’s not deleted (at least for me). All of my data (at least I hope) is still there. The photos are intact, as well as tags. But I’m unable to see my old status updates, so I don’t know if they’re still there. My old comments and +1 are still there on my friends’ posts.

If you go to my Google Profile, you will see a 404 error. However, I’m still able to log into Google+ and read all of your posts. I just can’t comment, +1, or even update my status.

On the mobile app side, there’s no real way for me to see that my account was suspended. I can create a new status post and submit it, but I’m pretty sure it just goes to /dev/null. I can +1 posts, but it doesn’t really get added. There’s no red box to tell me, “hey, your account is suspended. Log into a desktop to fix the error.” I can still see all the photos from my Picasa account and all the people in my Circles. And Huddle works fine too. I’m able to IM people on it, except their notifications will say “null sent you a message.” The only giveaway that something is wrong with your account is the Profile page. Click on it and it will be blank. The “About” and “Posts” tabs will both be empty, and your profile photo will be gone as well. This goes the same for the web app (except there’s no Huddle on that.)

I hope Google+ can resolve this issue soon. I think it’s a great product that’s both innovative and changing the way social media works. But there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out.

Comments

  1. Artemis Entreri says

    I too am going through this because they feel that the internet name i’f gone by since 92/93 and answer to in real life doesnt meet thier expectations. and so i sit with a suspended account waiting the horrible “review” teams response. If they had a better process for this, provided warnings or some way to appeal this would be fine. but seeing as how a fair amount of users are losing thier full accounts, not just g+ access it would appear that they simply dont care unless you’re famous or post everywhere else.
    I for one have full backedup my contacts and email from gmail pulled down any docs, made a secondary backup and do NOT backup my android phone to google but to a local source incase thier heavy hand breaks my phone. And as an IT consultant and engineer, you can bet if they cripple my phone from thier Pseudonym Crusade I will tell all my clients and friends, people that ask me for input on technology, my tale and caution them not to buy into google’s android OS or use androids business services because this could happen.
    Someone that a full G-services wipe HAS happened because of the pseudonym crusade.
    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/bt2p2o
    And of course MY account.
    https://plus.google.com/102876125090455855473/

  2. says

    Google+ has also been on the bitter side of several bloggers and authors that prefer to keep their public life separate from their personal (and sometimes even their professional) life. They are not allowing pseudonyms and are suspending accounts with funky names, which is a part of the reason many of these authors and bloggers can exist.

    However, according to Robert Scoble, this will change. He posted (see link) that Google is working on eventually opening up an option for pseudonyms, but it will be awhile. How many people will hang around to see that day? I have seen many people give up G+ already.

    Link – https://plus.google.com/u/0/111091089527727420853/posts/Fddn6rV8mBX

  3. Mike says

    If you can’t follow TOS, your account should be suspended. This is simple stuff. Google doesn’t need to change anything. Users who can’t follow the rules should expect to be canned. What is all the flap about anyway?

    • says

      Mike, the issue is Google is doing this widespread and not really communicating with its users. On top of that, it’s doing it for people where are known by different or nicknames (e.g., Kirrily “Skud” Robert).

    • CM says

      For a company that’s supposed to be big on privacy, this is a real blow to it. Add to that, the excuse that it’s to stop spam is pure bullshit. If I was to spam, I would use a name like Sarah Moore, or John Bonner, or Mike May…or w/e. I wouldn’t use a name like Ch34p V14gr4

  4. Andy w says

    I run a community website, and over the 12 years learned only 10% of the people will actually do what they are asked. So giving a warning doesn’t work, when you lock a profile the user learns. It’s better customer service when you lock, less work on customer support, and less emails to support as too why profile .net is allowed to use a false name. Google has this right on in my opinion.

  5. says

    Whats weird I have a pseudonym on Google Plus and they didnt touch my google plus account but if they do then Im no longer a google user we have very little in the way of real privacy on the net and I wont allow my name or my kids names on ANY social community w/o a nick handle or pseudonym Google thinks I shouldn’t do this then buh bye google

    • CM says

      Agreed, I’ll switch to bing, windows phone, and hotmail.

      I don’t put my real name out in social media, and all of my friends and family know to look me up as my pseudonym.

  6. says

    i’ve been updating things, as i too suffered the same fate last week. even found a letter from ‘darth vader’ whining about the same thing. you should take a read to it, it’ll lift your spirits. it did mine.

    all in all… i’m back on g+, and all my services have been restored – youtube (which was the force behind my efforts to reclaim my account), followed closely by gmail & docs. the rest of their services could stay muted for all i care.

    anyway, i hope you enjoy getting your account back. it’ll happen. give it a few days.