What's in a name? A lot, at least for prospective users of Google+, the booming social networking service. Over the weekend, Google+ kicked many users off the site for violating its terms of service, which require that everyone on the site must use his or her real, legal name to "help fight spam and prevent fake profiles." The move infuriated those who commonly go by pseudonyms on the web, and find value in separating their true identities from their social networking presences. Does Google+ have the right to ban users who don't go by their real names?
This helps keep Google+ classy: "It's about time somebody put the kibosh on anonymous accounts," says Joe Wilcox at BetaNews. Requiring users to be "identifiable and therefore more accountable for their behavior" will only help Google+ in the long run. There are other sites where members are allowed to engage anonymously, but Google+ isn't a place for internet "trolls." Insisting on real names improves security and builds community. Let's hope Google doesn't "cow to the riffraff" who are demanding a change to the policy.
"Google is right to demand people use real names."
But pseudonyms protect many internet users: There are plenty of good reasons why people want to have control of their names, says Violet Blue at ZDNet. Many users have been cyber-bullied, stalked, or have "sensitive jobs." Allowing members to use pseudonyms makes it possible for "people at risk for persecution" to become part of the Google+ community. Pseudonymity is a much-needed way for the vulnerable to protect themselves. "We shouldn't need to have this conversation after all these years on the internet."
"Four things Google+ could do to fix Google+"
There's a logical solution to all of this: The biggest problem with the Google+ name policy is that it "seems to have been scribbled on a napkin at the last minute," says Jon Evans at TechCrunch. Luckily, the solution to the site's "haphazard, scattershot" guidelines is right there "staring them in the face." There's a nickname field when you edit your profile on Google. The site should simply limit the number of times nicknames can be changed, and allow Google+ users to specify which Circles of friends can see their real name. That way there's "accountable identities and pseudonymity, all in one package."
"Google+ has a problem. Fear not: I have a solution"