Brandon Campeaux, but more than 265,000 folks have "circled" the photographer on Google+. As of this morning, Campeaux packed his virtual bags and left Google+ claiming that the company has done nothing about death threats leveled against him on Google+.You may have never heard of
According to Campeaux's last post, "I received 4 separate death threats through Google+. That brings the total for the month of December way over 10. I've reported each account & flagged the individual death threats. Google responded by doing nothing. Not one account suspension."
Campeaux writes that the threats "freaked me out," and has responded "by deleting everything I ever published to Google+. Google won't do anything to stop these people from harassing me so I've closed off my account completely: limited comments; no email; no notifications."
Campeaux tagged three people in his sign-off note from Google+: Google+ community manager Natalie Villalobos, Google+ pages and mobile community manager Toby Stein, and Max Huijgen of Functional Media. Neither Villalobos or Stein have spoken up (word is that Villalobos is on vacation), but Huijgen is raising a ruckus on Campeaux's behalf.
According to Huijgen, "a tiny fraction" of Campeaux's posts consisted of "his views on nudity in fashion, censorship as a principle and his belief there is no god at all."
Since Campeaux deleted his posts, we don't have many examples of his posts or the death threats that he claims to have received, but there are a few that have been re-shared. One re-share shows Campeaux claiming to have received 3 threats based on a (likely offensive to many) cartoon.
Campeaux didn't shy away from controversy, though that is (of course) absolutely no excuse for threatening violence. You can see some of Campeaux's photos in his Google+ album, though it doesn't look like any potentially objectionable photos remain.
By the way, here's a tip: Even if you do decide to delete posts from Google+, if they're re-shared, they stay. I think this is as it should be, but for folks who are treating Google+ like a blog, it's important to note that you don't have much control over the spread of your posts.
He seems to have had a history of having photos banned from Google+. If you do a search for Campeaux's name, you'll find a few reposted items on politics, attacking religion or posts complaining about Google+ policies.
Campeaux hasn't always had problems getting attention from Google+ mods, as evidenced by an exchange with Google's Brian Rose (reposted by another user).
As I said, we don't have examples of the death threats, but it's hard to imagine anything that can be interpreted as a "death threat" that doesn't fall afoul of Google's content and conduct policy.
In Defense of Google
First, if you receive what you think is a credible death threat via Google+ or anywhere else contact the police above and beyond any interaction you have with the company behind the social network. If Campeaux is legitimately concerned for his safety, having the offender's profiles removed does nothing at all to mitigate an actual threat. Contact law enforcement first and let them work with Google. Google's first response here should be to direct the user to the police.
So why hasn't Google acted? I got in touch with Google earlier today, but so far they haven't responded to our questions. A Google spokesperson did reply after we reached out to one of Google's community managers, but said that they wouldn't be able to get anyone on the phone and offered to answer questions over email. Unfortunately, after sending questions over to Google the spokesperson went non-responsive. If and when Google does respond I'll update this post.
To be fair to Google, though, the company no doubt has a ridiculous number of flagged comments to sort through. Google seems to have optimized their moderation (such as it is) to deal with objectionable content and spam, not death threats. There doesn't seem to be a good way to quickly escalate an actual threat of violence.
It's also possible that Google is working behind the scenes and has simply fallen down on actually communicating with Campeaux. If Google has evidence that a user has issued a death threat to another user, one hopes that they do a bit more than simply delete the user profile and/or offensive comments. Perhaps Google is working with law enforcement on this issue behind the scenes, though it seems that they'd also need to have the user in question make a complaint to do so.
Campeaux wrote that he received more than 10 death threats in December via Google+, and four "tonight" (the post is timestamped 4:54 a.m., so it's unclear whether he means the 27th or 28th). Unless all 10 originated in the last few days, it seems that Google should have taken some action by now even if they're a bit short-staffed due to the holiday.
It's not very surprising that people are calling Google out for failure to act. If the company is going to be hyperactive in pursuing ToS violations for flipping the bird in a profile pic or policing the use of a pseudonym, it has no excuse for sluggishness in responding to threats against other users. This is the equivalent of a city having fully manned speed traps all over, but taking 30 minutes to respond to 911 calls.
Most Google+ users don't seem to care if the other users on the service are using real names or not. If another user happens to be making an obscene gesture in their profile photo, then it's easy enough to avoid that user if you find it offensive. But users threatening violence or making death threats is universally unacceptable.
Huijgen mentions Campeaux's impressive follower list several times, but it shouldn't matter if a person on Google+ has 250,000 followers or two followers. Google has set up the expectation that it's going to enforce its content and conduct policy, which includes a warning against threatening or bullying other users.
By setting itself up as a strict moderator of content, Google sets expectations that it will respond to user complaints in a timely fashion. Unless Campeaux is exaggerating or fabricating the claims, Google seems to have fallen down hard on this one.
Update December 29, 2011 @ 7:16 a.m. Pacific: Campeaux reports in an edit to his original post that Brian Rose "reached out to me through email at 2:09pm. His team is investigating the threats. I thank him for that and for everyone else who condemns this type of behaviour."
Also, Google responded by email late yesterday to say, "as a matter of policy, we do not respond to requests around specific Google+ profiles or pages." Google ignored my question about their response to death threats on Google+ in general.