Today, I was notified that I will be unceremoniously banned from Google+. My page will exist until September 9th, and I will be able to make further posts, but in three days, all of my data will be deleted and I will be locked out.
Was it because I posted a profanity-laden diatribe about some petty injustice?
Was it because I posted a photograph of my massive schlong, causing widespread panic and a run on Viagra?
Not this time.
Was it because I uploaded a pirated copy of the latest mass-produced, auto-tuned aural abortion?
Perish the thought. Those talented artists deserve every nickel they make.
So why, you may be wondering … why was I banished from the realm of Google’s new social media platform?
Well, I’ll tell you.
I was booted from Google Plus because I do not have a traditional Caucasian-American name.
You see, Google+ requires, not prefers, but requires that all subscribers have both a traditional first and a traditional last name.
Unfortunately, my full, legal name really is “Rex”. It is on my birth certificate, passport, and driver’s license. Just like Prince, Cher, and Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) I am mononymous. It is perfectly legal to be mononymous.
Fortunately, for those of us with slightly unusual or confusing names, both U.S. Federal and Washington State law allow a person to adopt a common-law name. So long as the name is used consistently, and without the intent to defraud, the name is legal.
Because many entities request a first and last name for technical reasons, in addition to my legal name … I adopted a common-law name which is, indeed, “Seattle Rex”. It’s been adopted via both the assumed and usage method. Said name is legal, and may be used in any capacity, including legal contracts.
Unfortunately, Google will accept neither my legal name nor my common law name. In order to use their service, Google absolutely insists that I have a traditionally Caucasian-American name, such as Fred Clark. Native-American derivatives, such as “Seattle”, are apparently unacceptable.
Now, Google did offer me admission to Google Plus if I sent them a copy of my driver’s license … and this is the point at which they probably violated the Civil Rights Act Sec. 201 and any number of state laws which enforce the right of public accommodation.
In their statement to me, Google openly admitted that they suspect that I am lying for no other reason than the spelling of my name. A name that does not contain profanity or any other objectionable words. Only if I listed a traditionally Caucasian-American name (ie. “John Smith”) on the Google+ application, would Google assume me to be honest. Only then would I enjoy the same benefit of doubt as other customers.
This is probably discrimination, as name bias is usually a proxy for racial, religious, or cultural bias.
Requiring everyone to present a valid ID to enter your store is legal. Requiring only people named “Mohammed” and “DeShaun” to present an ID to enter your store is against the law. If Google demands a driver’s license from some, it must demand a driver’s license from all. Or, it must take everyone’s word for it equally. Equal opportunity and equal protection.
Of course, I would never litigate such a thing. I author several blogs and a web forum, and I have no problem getting my content out there. I can very easily live without social media altogether. The company lawyers might want to take another look at the policy, though. It could be a legal liability.
This whole thing is also kind of a shame because Google+ is the only social media outlet that I really used. I am an avid Android user/developer, an avid Google Docs user, and I am a heavy user and proponent of a great many of Google’s products. I guess I’ll be using one fewer going forward.
In any event, if you followed me on Google Plus, suffice to say that I shall exist no longer on that platform. Until Google buys the rest of the Internet, my true home is where I shall always be found:
Where Amazing Happens.