To Google+ or not to Google+, pseudonymity, women and net abuse

Have been feeling like a wallflower at the disco (story of my life) watching everyone get their Google+ accounts. Alas for me I can’t take part with the account I’d like because I’m a Google Apps user and Google profiles aren’t yet available for Apps accounts. Thought of creating an account on gmail but can’t really be arsed with having yet another new account. Over the last few months I’ve been consciously slimming down my portfolio of domains and services aiming for as few as necessary.

There’s been a couple of excellent articles by Violet Blue: “Google Plus: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” and more disturbingly “Google Plus Deleting Accounts En Masse: No Clear Answers“. The first tip I got that something unsettling was happening was when veteran podcaster Madge Weinstein said that all of the Google services including mail and youtube had been blocked for supposedly breaking a TOS. Madge is a “character” but it’s the name that the male artist has been using in public for years. The pseudonym is the name by which that person is commonly known. Now hopefully such bans are temporary and can be overturned by protesting but this is just such a disappointing behaviour from Google and thought they learned from the debacle over their Buzz launch. A lot of feminist material may relate to subjects like rape and domestic violence, not clear if that can be posted on Google+.

I really want to know what the position is regarding psuedonyms as it would affect me. I almost never use my actual name signing up for social networks, not for any privacy reason but because my entire online ‘career’ has been spent trying to make Scottish Women more visible on the net. My real name is unisex so I found whenever I posted in forums about technology and such like it was just assumed that I was male…which lead to some awkward but amusing situations in face to face meetups. So I decided to spell it out loud and clear, I am Scottish Lass on the net. I registered scottishlass.co.uk back in the 1990s and was a early blogger on this domain but gave it up just when it was becoming popular. I came to realise quite quickly that this was also handy as a personal brand and people remembered it. In the majority of online places folk wouldn’t know my real name so for all intents and purposes Scottish Lass *is* my name on the net, particularly on the web. It is my identity. If Google+ wont allow me to be that there then well…I guess I’m going to give it a miss which puts it in the same category as Facebook for me as a social network I don’t use (the latter for their scummy adverts and disregard for other users privacy that were driving my acquaintances nuts).

Another article I think Google folk should read is “Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy?“. Still amazes me that so many men seem to have no understanding that women can get hassled online just for having a female name let alone for photos or other content. I’ve spent many years helping women deal with online abuse even pre-web, usually tracking down and reporting the suspects. As an administrator of websites that cover topics like feminism and LGBT issues I’ve also personally received dogs abuse for that and two people have actually lost either a training place or a job because of the vile messages they’ve posted on my sites or emailed. I’m lucky, I can defend myself and have a stomach hardened to that crap that I don’t rise to the bait or get personally upset by it. Other women aren’t so lucky. Often someone will put me in touch with women distraught about what others have posted about them online or shocked that e.g. Facebook has yet again made things public that they thought were private. It’s usually straightforward to lock things down or report the abuse via official channels – it’s this latter step that all too many women don’t realise they should or how to do. Usually they’re just so upset they can’t face going back and reading whatever site they’ve been using or they’re frightened that they’re getting unwanted attention. I make a point of *always* reporting personal abuse I witness online however minor…for the simple reason that such abusers rarely have just one victim. You  usually don’t have to do much research on the perpetrator to find them doing similar things or worse to others. Please report abuse using whatever official contact mechanisms you can find on whatever website. You might find details of how to report abuse in a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or Terms of Service section or even buttons marked “report for abuse” or similar on web postings.