Despite being blocked, Google+ still has the power to ruffle feathers here in China as news outlets have been abuzz recently concerning Google’s deletion of thousands of Google+ accounts that were not using real names. As interesting as that may be, the real story here lies not in why “JrzyShoreGrrll1993” or “[email protected]:)” should keep their profiles, but rather in the numerous internet activists who have a much less stupid reason to use a pseudonym.
Not only is there a tradition for using pen names on the internet to avoid being implicated for having certain views, many Chinese users in particular would perhaps rather be known as Walt among their American friends than Weihua.
One Chinese activist in particular wrote on his Google+:
Please Google+, when you are deciding regulations, you must consider Chinese usage, especially from users in mainland China.
Be sure to consider the user’s actual situation. Please do not force them to use a real-name system. Otherwise, I think that Google will be violating its principle of ‘don’t be evil’.
This message was eventually deleted by an evil Google employee (who most likely cackled maniacally as he did so) apparently along with the activist’s profile, though as of today it seems at least the profile has been restored.
If you rarely find yourself away from your RSS feed then perhaps you remember the debacle that occurred earlier this year when well known Chinese author and activist Michael Anti was removed from Facebook for using his pseudonym instead of his real name. Despite the ensuing shitstorm, complete with threats of boycott, Facebook held up its decision and today Michael Anti only exists on Facebook as a Fan Page.
Facebook stuck to its guns, so it will be interesting to see if Google+ follows the same path, as currently Michael Anti’s Google+ page remains up, in direct contradiction to Google’s decision.
Google+ is still in its fledgling stages (despite having over 20 million members, including Ai Weiwei!) so it’s almost impossible to say if Google will remain steadfast, or give in and allow pseudonyms.
By Joel Herrick