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

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.


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