News: Google+ Updates Name Policy—Still No Pseudonyms

Google+ Updates Name Policy—Still No Pseudonyms

As Google+ became available to more people, it started running into issues of accounts being suspended due to names that did not sound "real". According to Google+'s community standards, names that users "commonly go by" were encouraged, but not pseudonyms. Those who were using pseudonyms in their Google+ profiles quickly found themselves suspended from using Google+. 

Google+ has now updated its name policy to provide a few more options for people who want to be known by other names, but pseudonyms are still discouraged.

Full first and last names are required for the name fields. Initials, degrees and markers such as "Rev.", and "Dr." are not allowed in these fields. Nicknames and pseudonyms go in the "Other Names" field. Unusual characters such as quotation marks aren't allowed in the name fields either. The name field can only be changed once every 30 days.


The Google+ name policy has created a lot of controversy and discussion over the past few weeks. Those whose profiles were suspended have protested the policy as arbitrary and harmful. 

On Twitter, you can follow the discussion with the hashtag #nymwars ("nym" is short for "pseudonym"). was created to provide testimonials from real people declaring why they use the pseudonyms they choose, and to demonstrate to Google why their "real names" policy is harmful.

Over in Google+, several interesting discussions are taking place over the name issue. +danah boyd argues that the "common name" requirement is harmful because it is discriminatory, and an abuse of power.

"And I'm really really glad to see seriously privileged people take up the issue, because while they are the least likely to actually be harmed by "real names" policies, they have the authority to be able to speak truth to power. And across the web, I'm seeing people highlight that this issue has more depth to it than fun names (and is a whole lot more complicated than boiling it down to being about anonymity, as Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg foolishly did).

What's at stake is people's right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety. If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its users, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable."

+Kee Hinckley dissects the arguments of the "anti-nyms" and provides some great examples of situations in which pseudonyms may be helpful, warranted and create safe spaces for people.

"Here lies the huge irony in this discussion. Persistent pseudonyms aren't ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are. You can finally talk about what you really believe; your real politics, your real problems, your real sexuality, your real family, your real self. Much of the support for "real names" comes from people who don't want to hear about controversy, but controversy is only a small part of the need for pseudonyms. For most of us, it's simply the desire to be able to talk openly about the things that matter to every one of us who uses the Internet. The desire to be judged—not by our birth, not by our sex, and not by who we work for—but by what we say."

Read the rest of +danah boyd and +Kee Hinckley's arguments, and tell us what you think. Do you agree with them? Should Google+ allow people to provide pseudonyms in the name fields? Or would you rather have a social network where people are encouraged to use their real names? 

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Photo by gwen

1 Comment

It's a social network, it should act like one. If my cousin is nicknamed X0xP00pMastax0X and the only one interacting with him are his friends and relatives, then what does it matter to the world what his/her real name is?

I wonder what's next? Maybe requiring a real photo for your profile? I've grown quite fond of my laughing puppy picture, I don't want to give that up either!

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