Last night when I posted about my outrage over Google taking down my middle finger profile picture I was being a bit facetious. It was a little annoying, sure. But I found it more humorous because it seems to be a silly policy with a lot of gray area that will be hard to enforce (and time shouldn’t be wasted enforcing it). I also didn’t like that Google removed my picture without warning, but I suppose that’s their right per their TOS.
But Rob Beschizza of BoingBoing took my predicament and made what I think is a much better point:
But Google describes Plus as “sharing in real life”. It describes it as an “identity service”. The middle finger, pointed at no-one in particular, is hardly a scandalous gesture; here it triggers a vaguely-defined policy that’s being applied to a service marketed heavily as a public venue for free expression.
Google could be more honest about Plus being no such thing, or it could allow Plus to become what it claims to be. The former seems an odd proposition, given that it’s so huge. But here we are, with the finger-detection squad in fine form. But is the latter really so hard? The present dissonance between representation and reality gives life to a caricature—that Plus is a sterile marketing research zone—which already seems to lurk widely in the imagination.
Google continues to walk this oddly vague line when it comes to Google+. At first it was all about real identity, like Facebook, but then when people complained, they backtracked from that. Now it’s all about “sharing in real life” — but it’s not real life. It’s some sterile representation of real life.
In real life, I give my friends the finger sometimes when they’re taking a picture of me. Childish? Sure. But funny for us too. I also call a few of them “fuckers” sometimes. Again, maybe not the most mature thing in the world, but lighthearted. And real.
If Google wants to create a sterile sharing ground, that’s fine, it’s their service. But don’t paint it as “real life”. It’s not.