Google removed journalist MG Siegler's avatar because of the posture of his middle finger. Representative Alex Joseph explained why:
As the first point of interaction with a user’s profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy. Our policy page states, “Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content.” Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy.
Fair enough. Google Plus isn't a public platform. It's Google's platform.
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.