UPDATE2: So far, no additional Google+ warnings for me and my public posts seem to go through the machinery as well. Apparently, I’ve stopped violating Google+ policies; it sure gives me a very warm and fuzzy feeling – even though I don’t know just how I pulled it off. Even more strange, there was an earlier Google blog post where they stated that Bit.ly is one of the link shortening alternatives to Goo.gl (that will be discontinued). Go figure.
UPDATE: I got another warning(!) from Google+ so it seems my woes are not done quite yet. After talking to some people ‘in the know’, it seems very unlikely that profanity alone would have automatically triggered the warnings I’ve got. A couple of possible scenarios are spam-flagged Bit.ly links or someone quite simply reporting me to Google, for whatever reason. Still: there seems to be no way for me to find out why I was hit with the warnings, meaning in turn there is no way for me to make amends and make sure I’m not violating the Google+ policies. Hello there, Captain Yossarian!
Guess what – the social network (no, not The Social Network!) called Google+ is still around and it’s not a total ghost town, either. Oh, when I come to think of it, I’d guess the proper expression for G+ would probably be ‘a social layer across all of Google’s services’. I’ve been using Google+ since the very beginning in 2011 and one of my main reasons is that it’s been kind of a gold mine for me when needing assistance and information about various Google services. During the last couple of years I’ve also been posting publicly quite a bit on G+ (and, full disclosure, auto forwarding my posts through the excellent Friends+Me service to Facebook and Twitter which I hardly ever use separately) – that is, until recently when I dropped a slightly accidental f-bomb that apparently ground my public posts on G+ into a screeching halt.
Let’s go back a bit. To start with, there are some very obvious questions you might be thinking of, as to the background to all this – something along these lines, perhaps:
- Just exactly what did you do to unleash the wrath of Google?
- How could you possibly be so stupid – never read the Google Terms and Policies?!
- So you are in the habit of throwing around f-bombs in your public writing?
- Google didn’t even shut down your account – what are you whining about?
What did I do? Well, this a perfect illustration of Catch-22 since I really don’t have a clue what I’m guilty of but it seems to me I did a very bad thing: there was profanity in one (1) of my public posts. One word – the Bomb. First one ever, I believe.
It’s easy to be stupid when you’re a bit tired – not intoxicated, just tired, I promise! – and citing another post. I must also confess: no, I’ve actually never read the Terms and Policies properly all the way through (I wonder if anyone, apart from some lawyers, has ever done that?) but I was definitely aware of the fact that profanity is not a good idea on Google Plus. It’s not a good idea on Facebook either, by the way, and just naked skin(!) – in any shape or form, no matter the context – is definitely widely known to get people in trouble there on the Dark Side. It’s interesting to notice that my tweet with the Bomb is still available on Twitter, by the way, without any reaction from their High Command:
I repeat: no, I’m not in the habit of throwing Bombs and profanity is extremely rare in my writing, to the extent that I’d say it’s non-existent until proven otherwise :) I don’t think I’ve ever been guilty of hate speech and harassment either but that’s probably, at least partly, in the eye of the beholder (or, perhaps more correctly, in the personal views of the reader).
I’ve still got my Google+ account, that’s right, it’s just the public posting part that has been blocked I believe. Actually, I’m not whining much at all about this: of course Google, Facebook, Twitter and all the other major players in this game can – and do! – shut down a private user account for pretty much any reason they see fit (or, as it seems, without any reason at all). Most often, the informed consent thing is like a bad joke but, yes, I was totally aware of the fact that profanity on (most) social media platforms is not a smart move in case you’d like to keep using the services in question.
The thing that’s really interesting about my microscopic Google+ kerfuffle is the way it illustrates how these tech giants act: it’s all about algorithms – just like the warning, without any feedback loop, I got from Google after my disastrous mishap: ‘This is a warning, and your access to Google+ should not be currently impacted’ – even though it was. Of course, there is no way (that I can find) to ‘appeal’ decisions like these; with a bit of luck, you might find a web form to report the issue and ask for mercy but I doubt the Google+ AI
customer user service is aware of the notion of mercy in the first place.
It will be interesting to see if my G+ ‘publishing ban’ lasts a week, a month, a year or if it might possibly be permanent. And yes, I did find the web form to address my Bomb woes but I doubt my posting through that channel has any effect. I’d guess Google can’t have millions of flesh-and-blood reps just going through the complaints from us mere mortals but, shoot, an additional ‘if-this-then-that’ line of code would be really neat for us first time offenders!
I don’t want to get into yet another extremely tiresome tirade about ‘You-Are-The-Product-blah-blah’ but, especially considering the recent developments involving Facebook – and also those involving Google – it’s an interesting question to ask: what is our data worth? I find it impossible to deliver a good answer, except that it seems to be worth quite a bit more than most of us ever thought possible. Nope, we are definitely not having one of those very rare free lunches here. Hardly even a free snack.