The sudden reversal of Google's years-long insistence on "real names" for G+ users came after a long fight about the biases inherent in such a policy.
At the heart of that fight was Skud, an engineer whose "real name" isn't the name on her birth certificate. She's written a blazing alternate-universe announcement that Google should have issued in order to inform the world about its change of heart.
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of people who matched our expectations about what a “real” person was, but excluded many other real people, with real identities and real names that we didn’t understand.
We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when they sought support.
Everyone is entitled to their own identity, to use the name that they are given or choose to use, without being told that their name is unacceptable. Everyone is entitled to safety online. Everyone is entitled to be themselves, without fear, and without having to contort themselves to meet arbitrary standards.
Meanwhile, in an alternate universe… [Skud/Infotrope]
(Image: Anonymous va a los Goya, Enrique Dans, CC-BY)