Google+ no friendlier to role-players than Facebook

If you thought Google+ might be a safe haven for role-players, think again. The hot new social network has learned nothing from Facebook, except how to count really high, it seems.

Less than a month after beginning a “limited beta”, google+ has not only chalked up more than 20 million users, it has, in recent days begun deleting many. Adding insult to injury, in at least some cases if your google+ profile goes, so does your gmail account.

Like Facebook, Goggle+ is claiming the role-playing accounts, under pseudonyms or character names violates their terms of service. Unlike Facebook and contrary to Google’s own statements, some of the accounts are disabled without even the offer to reinstatement upon proof of identity (a government issued ID). Again, the prime targets for the purges seem to be those with large circles of friends.

Google+ isn’t stopping with RPers either. They are going after businesses and brands, as well. As a result a large number of very high profile accounts have been summarily dismissed. Everyone (according to MSNBC’s Technolog) from William Shatner (who used James T. Kirk as his profile) to Mashable to the Today show to…well you see where this is going.  Google+ is trying to make amends, telling brands and businesses that they are working hard on a special version of the network just for them. Unfortunately, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and Google may have just squandered theirs, not just with role-players but also with major brands and potential advertisers.

Although for a brief period the Preternatural Post had a google+ profile, that profile is now back in the name of Managing Editor, Mena Grazie. All of the major news sites in her circles have vanished as has The Poynter Institute.

The biggest difference between Facebook’s actions and those of Google+ is not timing. It’s consistency. And not just consistency in who/what gets purged or deactivated. Consistency within their own rules and guidance. For instance, the Google Help page regarding your name and Google Profiles begins by saying “Google services support three different types of use new window when it comes to your identity: unidentified, pseudonymous, identified.” The Google Public Policy blog go even further stating:

“When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits.

Unidentified. Sometimes you want to use the web without having your online activity tied to your identity, or even a pseudonym—for example, when you’re researching a medical condition or searching for that perfect gift for a special someone. When you’re not logged into your Google Account (or if you never signed up for one), that’s how you’ll be using our services. While we need to keep information like IP addresses and cookies to provide the service, we don’t link that information to an individual account when you are logged out.

Pseudonymous. Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger.

Identified. There are many times you want to share information with people and have them know who you really are. Some products such as Google Checkout rely on this type of identity assurance and require that you identify yourself to use the service. There may be other times when it’s more desirable to be identified than not, for example if you want to be part of a community action project you may ask, “How do I know these other people I see online really are community members?”

It appears that Google is in direct violation of their own stated position. At least with Facebook, there was not pretense to allow anonymity or pseudonyms. It also appears that Google is in some ways escalating the problem, by removing accounts where an obvious pseudonym is used. The problem with this being that many pseudonyms, especially like Opensource Obscure and even Bizwriter among the gaming and writing communities are actually older, and have a more detailed, traceable and extensive history than Google has as a company. Why should someone who has carefully cultivated an online identity for years be removed simply because of an inability to provide government issued identification in that name? Being able to zoom in on our precise location at the keyboard or on the phone isn’t enough?

Sadly, it seems that it is not.

If you are a role-player and haven’t yet received your coveted invite to Google+ don’t be too disappointed. Sure it’s all shiny and new but when you scratch the surface it’s the same old story: Characters not welcome.