Google+ Doesn’t Want “Real” Names. They Want WASPonyms.

Posted Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Three pieces of news lately about Google+ make it clear that when Google claims they want you to use your “real” name, it’s a load of hooey. First off, a legally mononymous Australian journalist named Stilgherrian was told he couldn’t use that name — his actual, legal name — on Google+. He was not at all pleased, and has written one fairly professional complaint and one vitriolic and expletive-soaked rant about it (indeed, even the URL of the latter post could be considered NSFW).

Then Microsoft employee M3 Sweatt had his Google+ profile suspended. Unlike Stilgherrian, M3’s name is the one his parents gave him when he was born. His name also has the virtue of having a recognizable first name and last name. Nonetheless, Google+ says it doesn’t count.

Finally, the Internet personality who goes by the (non-legally-recognized) moniker Rainyday Superstar changed her Google+ profile to list her as “Rainy O’Leary”, and told Google very explicitly that this was not her real name. She also set every other field in her profile to say, “My name is Rainyday Superstar”.

Of course, Google reinstated her Google+ account. (She has since deleted it.)

Taken together, these three events make it very clear that Google doesn’t give a damn if you’re using your “real” name. They just want you to use a “normal-looking” name. Google wants you to use a WASPonym, a name that looks like it comes from middle-class, white-bread, suburban America.

This is just one of the reasons why I’ve been putting the “real” in “‘real’ names policy” in quotes all this time. There’s also the question of what makes a name “real” at all, but it seems pretty clear that by any sane standard, M3 Sweatt’s name qualifies. It’s the name his parents gave him at birth, and one that he feels a personal attachment to.

But it’s not a WASPonym, so Google says that if M3 wants to keep using G+, he’ll have to change his handle to a name that’s not his real name.

It’s not a “real” names policy at all. It’s a WASPonym policy.

I have no idea why they’re insisting on it, but it will do absolutely nothing to hold people accountable for their words or actions, or to stop spam, or any of the other things Google keeps claiming. All those excuses are a lie and a ruse.

There is no longer any sense in calling this policy “a ‘real’ names policy”; continuing to use that terms merely aids Google’s attempts to confuse the issue. It’s a WASPonym policy, and I will call it that from now on.


  1. scot
    Posted Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    “There’s also the question of what makes a name “real” at all, but it seems pretty clear that by any sane standard, M3 Sweatt’s name qualifies”

    So does Stilgherrian’s. It’s his legal name. That’s a “real” name.

  2. Posted Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree that Stilgherrian’s name is just as “real” as any other (except in the sense that I disagree with the entire concept of applying the word “real” to any name at all).

    But when I wrote that line about M3, I was thinking that there are some people who think “real” name means “the one your parents gave you”. These would be the sorts of folks who, on hearing that someone has changed their name, can unthinkingly and rudely ask, “Oh, so what’s your real name?”

    I do not support these people’s logic (or their rudeness). But I figure that even they would have to agree that M3 Sweatt’s “real” name is M3. In essence, I’m holding them up as the most extreme example of “refusal to accept certain names as ‘real’,” and then arguing that M3 Sweatt’s name meets even their (ridiculous) standard.

  3. Posted Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    The more I read about this policy, the more angry I become — and the more shocked that so many folks aren’t understanding how wrong this is. Thanks for posting this. Shared it in a couple of spots, including my new Diaspora account. …Gods, I hope Diaspora really takes off!

  4. Posted Monday, April 2nd, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    This is ridiculous. Just because someone’s name doesn’t sound like a “real name” it’s immediately thrown away by Google? Weird.

  5. James Dolan
    Posted Sunday, May 19th, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    M3 Sweatt wasn’t the name that his parents gave him at birth. His name was “Millard Edgar Sweatt III”. He changed it to M3 after high school.

  6. Posted Saturday, June 1st, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    James Dolan: On the page I linked to as “M3 Sweatt had his Google+ profile suspended”, Mr. Sweatt himself writes “Interesting, I’ve had my name since birth.” I took that to be pretty definitive.

  7. James Dolan
    Posted Saturday, June 1st, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I can send you his yearbook photo, which proves otherwise, if you wish.

  8. Posted Friday, June 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Heh. No, I’ll take your word for it. I guess you went to school with him, huh?

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