Google+ Drops Real Name Policy, Promises To Smash Internet Trolls

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Google admits that when they launched Google+ over three years ago there were a lot of restrictions on what name could be used on your profile.

If you ask Google, they’ll say this was because it “helped create a community made up of real people,” but they’ll also acknowledge that people who wanted to be a part of the community were left out if they didn’t want to use their real name.

Google+ even gave me a hard time with using my own real name. I had to prove to them that “Southern” was my real last name because it wasn’t a name they were familiar with.

Well, they’re finally loosening up on their restrictions, continuing a trend they started since the launch of Google+. Google+ has been steadily opening up its real name policy, starting with allowing Page owners to use any name they want, as well as letting YouTubers bring their usernames into Google+.

Now, there are no more restrictions on what name you can use. This news came in the form of a Google+ post where Google apologizes for the “unnecessarily difficult” experiences caused by their real name policy.

We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today’s change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be.

When this news broke, some applauded Google’s decision while other have been very outspoken against it. The most common complaint is that real names were a way to hold people accountable for they said online, and now all the trolls are going to come out of the woodwork and roam free.

Yonatan Zunger, Chief Architect at Google+, responded to this criticism by telling everyone not to worry:

Oh, don’t worry. One of the reasons this is safe to launch is that our troll-smashing department has gotten very good at their jobs… I spent two years working closely with the YouTube team on comments, and I think we have a much better understanding of what turned them into the wretched hive of scum and villainy we all know.

Zunger explains that they have fixed some of the “broken behaviors” that allowed YouTube trolls to run wild. Things like “top comments” rewarding people for getting the most interaction, rather than the most positive interaction.

This change is now live for all Google+ users, not just new users. So if you wanted to change your real name to a nickname, or other screen name you’re known by, you can do that as well.

Matt Southern

Matt Southern

Lead News Writer
Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert industry coverage he provides.
Matt Southern
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  • Mary Quinn

    Do marketers and small businesses even TRUST Google anymore? It seems like the search engine behemoth has a real brand loyalty problem.

  • scottmckirahan

    Wow. Google has done a lot of dumb things over the past couple of years but this may very well be the most stupid thing they have ever done! They had the opportunity to have the only social network with social signals you could trust. Now, they can join all the other social networks and prepare for a deluge of fake personas plus 1’ing and following people in order to drive up the appearance of a social following. They won’t even be able to trust their own social network for providing reliable social signals. I wonder what the going rate to buy hundreds/thousands of +1’s and follows on Google + will be?

    • Ethan

      So what’s wrong with LinkedIn Scott? Pretty sure I found those signals a bit more trustworthy than G+ even before this announced change.

  • Alex Morris

    Google have definitely gone about G+ in a different way. Many have found it odd, but I use it far more than Facebook. The latter is very irritating. The interesting thing with G+ is, even with real names, I’ve still come across many belligerent sorts on the Communities. You can offer a pertinent opinion and some people fly through the roof, immediately resort to petty name calling, or accuse you of being a troll. Luckily there’s a very effective “Block” option.

  • Rank Watch

    Restrictions have been one of the main reasons why Google+ has not had a big start. This sounds to be a good move on the face of it. Let’s see how the users are likely to react to this.