Home Google+ Updates Real Name Policy to Allow “Alternate Names”

Google+ Updates Real Name Policy to Allow “Alternate Names”

Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz has announced a series of changes to the Google+ real names policy. Google+ will now support “alternate names,” such as nicknames, maiden names or names in languages with non-Roman characters. Alternate names will appear in the main profile, as well as when a cursor is held over the name. Alternate names will appear in “other areas of Google+” as the feature is implemented over “the next few weeks.”

The update also broadens support for “established pseudonyms,” such as “Lady Gaga,” which up to this point have just snuck by on a case-by-case basis. There’s now a more uniform process by which a user can appeal if Google flags her or his name. Users can now submit off-site references to an established identity, scanned documentation (like a driver’s license), or a link to an online identity with a “meaningful following.”

Google says the review process will take “a few days” and may require “further information” for proof. While a name is under review, the old name will still be displayed. There’s more information on the policy in Google’s support forum, and the features will roll out over the next few days.

Google’s initial handling of pseudonyms on Google+ was draconian. Critics argued that a real-names policy endangers politically active users, and that it’s not even how real peoples’ identities work. In response, Google’s Vic Gundotra said in October that Google+ pseudonym support was coming. Today’s addition of “alternate names” at least allows users to display an identity of their choice, but Google will still actively patrol the network to establish users’ identities.

UPDATE 3:40 p.m.:Violet Blue doesn’t think this update solves the problem at all.

UPDATE 7:13 p.m.:Kevin Marks has captured Google engineer Yonatan Zunger’s explanation of the policy, making clear that Google only cares that the names on Google+ sound real. According to Zunger, Google doesn’t care whether you use your own name, only that it looks like a name to Google’s algorithm. Short online handles are not allowed.

Does this update satisfy the needs of pseudonymous users, or should Google go further? Sound off in the comments.

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