Saturday, July 23, 2011

If we can't dance, don't want to be part of your revolution!

I'm working on organizing a protest (through g+ of course! ;) of g+'s pseudonymity policy, where we'll create cardboard cutouts of "deleted friends" and label them things like: "abuse survivor" "off duty cop" "Second Life professional artist" or "Arab spring activist" and form human chains of "real" and deleted people around local Google offices. Every protest should be a memetic art project, doncha think? ;).   It's a positive protest -- a celebration of sorts -- we'll just dance, physically, at Google's offices, every Friday, with our symbolically deleted friends, until Google tells us we can dance with them online, again.

Google -- you're supposed to be the people who GET IT!

I'm playing with the idea of us showing up on 7/29. Press invited. International flash mob. 

Online identity shouldn't deny people the ability to have professional and social and political lives online - but sometimes those have to be articulated for privacy.

How many people today think that school teachers should be single women only? That was the norm, a century ago, for similar reasons - a teacher in public schools today could not have a private social or political expression (however benign) without separation from his/her professional identity.

Likewise, law enforcement, a judge, a crisis or drug counselor. How about a political blogger in Syria, or Vietnam, or Iran or any of dozens of countries?

Google should welcome pseudonymity. A pseudonym is a laser focused market identity. That judge might not have very exciting commercial interests. But his pseudonym may be shopping for high end gay resort vacations. Ultimately, so long as his method of payment is good, does it really hurt Google's bottom line if PII suffers from MPD? In terms of volume of dollars spent and ads clicked, I'd speculate it helps it.

But if the goal is to do no evil, privacy must be preserved. The abuse survivor must be able to communicate and have an online community of support under a pseudonym while the abuser, often family, is still close at hand. The Arab Spring and other movements should have hope for a safer seedbed than Facebook. Online communications can be awful when abused, but let's not forget that they are vital to our liberties and culture offline in a tightly coupled way.

We can no longer meaningfully talk about "online culture" and "offline culture." Do we talk about telephone "culture?" No. We only differentiate fine points of etiquette and a few oddments of law. We live with people, we communicate with people.

My Cisco sales guy, Joe Alexander, may actually be Jose Alejandro. I'd never know. My Dell tech support contact, Adam, in live chat? Probably Krishna. Half the actors in IMDB have a "born as" record. Some, because of SAG rules. Some, because studios thought they had "funny names." And not a few to hide they were Jewish, in a time that was not great for your career.

Suddenly, there is some virtue to this Eurocentric idea of "real names." (Yes, Eurocentric - look at much of Korea or China for name diversity, or count Mohammed Alis in the world).

There are so many reasons this policy is half baked. Ultimately, it's been said above: banning should be on behavior.

Bring you deleted friends to a nearby Google office on 7/29. Tell Google, don't be stupid. It's too close to being evil.


  1. i would like to dance with you! i lost my account too. but maybe i must dance in germany...

  2. Some of us aren't close to Google offices. Is there a place to submit suspended names and reasons for privacy?

  3. Well, are there Google offices near you in Germany? Organize in Germany? Are you near Hamburg or Munich? There are Google offices there! Go dance!

  4. There is a database being collected of people who have had their names deleted on the "real names" policy. If you want your name and reason collected and represented by a "deleted friend" in Boston, though, email me ( if you like, and I'll make sure you are represented, if we don't get overwhelmed, anyway!

    The database of suspended accounts is here:

  5. This is a great idea--the imagery and the method of carrying it out are really well considered.

    Just so you know, though, MPD (more commonly called Dissociative Disorder) is a real and pretty disabling mental illness--and ironically, persons with disabilities, especially mental illness, are another category of folks who often need to use pseuds in order to get help and support online while not endangering their safety, home, or work lives.

    In other's always hurtful when people use disability as a metaphor or joke, as if it doesn't really affect anyone (that is, anyone that matters), but in this context, it's especially out of place.

  6. I have people in my circles with MPD, and I don't use it with intent to harm, but only as a parallelism with the TLAs.

    I don't believe there is any value, positive or negative, in the language used. Do you think the term should be avoided entirely for fear that its use, without any reference to negativity at all, might offend?

    One of the classic examples I've always used as an example of a person needing pseudonymity, from my time as executive director at Tor, is a person who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (sometimes associated with MPD)who was a volunteer with Tor. Not only did I never know this person's name or identity, I never knew their RL gender. This person was able to use anonymously accessed IRC chat rooms for support groups.

    Many survivors live in close proximity to their abusers, even as adults. It is impossible for them to seek support under verified identities.

    So, yes, I think we are on the same page, although perhaps we have different ideas on semantics. Checked this with two people in the disabled population. YMMV.

  7. What does it mean to jave a "real" name, online or otherwise? Are we talking about full legal names, in the US? I try to avoid using my full name online, and choose initials or "annag ." when possible; does this make me a pseudonymer (pseudonymous)?

  8. My understanding is that people have been requested to show that the name they are using is one commonly used in day to day life, and some people have been asked to produce government identification. Stories are all over. You can find stories about them asking for a "common name" rather than a "legal name" for example, so "Bob" vs. "Robert" I have no way of knowing if they would take annag vs, say Anna G.

  9. Good gosh who should have to give THEM a reason for privacy... they should respect ours unless we violate the terms of use which apply to everybody.

  10. My G+ profile was suspended not because of my user-name but because I dared to criticize (on G+)Google's unfair user-name-policy.

    I am not allowed to appeal my suspension and Google refuse to explain the details of my alleged violation, other than stating my "text and images" violates community standards. Google's allegation of violation is completely unfounded. If I had a chance to appeal I would easily prove I am innocent but I'm not allowed to appeal and I have yet to receive a explanation of the precise text and images that are allegedly causing the problem.

    As far as I am aware free-speech is not a violation of community standards and the community standards do not prohibit criticism of Google.

    This censorship is very undemocratic, it is ant-freedom censorship reminiscent of China or Iran then the US, UK, or any other democratic countries.

    How we define our identities, our choice of names in social communication, this is a key aspect of free-speech and free-expression, it is a crucial aspect of self-expression. Google should not be censoring our self-expression. We are not breaking the law, we are not sending spam, we are not doing anything wrong. Google+ is a social communication tool not passport control. The demands for Government issue photo I.D. are ludicrous.

    Google's censorship policies are fascist.

    If you are annoyed by #plusgate #googlefail #nymwars then fight back; encourage people to block adverts (#adblockplus). Hit google where is hurts. Google doesn't care about users but if all users starting blocking adverts then I'm sure Google would start to care.

    Adverts = revenue for Google. If enough people start blocking adverts then Google loses money.

    The internet is also much better when adverts are blocked.

    Regarding the unfair censorship of user-names (the false accusations of user-names being "fake") read my blog regarding Google's policy of user-name-fascism:

  11. Well, I'm one of the casualties.

    Remember me well!

  12. Sorry Conan! If there's anything you want to be represented for (for example, Quadrapop is "Second Life artist, parent, educator" on hirs) drop me a line at shava23 -at- gmail dot com

  13. Massachusetts Law is that your 'real' name is whatever name(s) you use as long is it is not intended to defraud. This law was passed ages ago in order to get name changes out of the overburdened court system. You can be sued under any name your are known by.