Google+, Identity and The Corporation: The Second Life Purge

July 20, 2011 update: Berry's Google+ account has been restored without comment. My latest thoughts are here and I will be exploring these issues in greater depth in an upcoming edition of The Social Media Monthly. I believe it is important to continue to push for individual control of identity on the web - including on the large and general community socnets.

When I first began exploring Google+ as it opened up over the July 4th weekend, one of the things that fascinated me was the activity of Second Life participants. Other than a bit of Gov 2.0 crossover - such as public works applications for SL and the City of Edmonton build - I admit to not knowing much about Second Life. I learned a bit more over the past year as a significant Second Life community set up on Empire Avenue, the social stock market. Second Lifers, it is clear, have a strong tech early adopter community. They were very prominent in the first iteration of my Google+ stream, and seemed to quite enjoy the new social network.

One of the Second Lifers I met on Empire was Strawberry Singh, a Second Life blogger and photographer who makes her living in distance education. One of my first interactions with her was in context of blog posts she wrote about the Second Life community's response to the March 2011 Japanese quake and charity efforts by various avatar "skin" and apparel designers.

Yesterday, Google+ suspended "Berry," as she is known, for violating its policies against using "fake" avatars to represent oneself on the service. Berry and other Second Life folk had seen this coming from the onset, and slowly they either reverted to "real" identities or were picked off by the Google police.

Of course, any service is free to set its terms of service. But what troubles me is the power that corporations like Google, Facebook and others have to force a standard of identity on individuals. And it got me thinking about what constitutes an identity as Google+ also looks to bring "business" profiles into its fold. A corporation - a concept taken legal form to sell services or products - will be accepted by Google. But not an individual who chooses to represent themselves outside Google's defined norms. 

It is easy to mock Second Lifers. But I have to say I am coming to value more those who recreate themselves online than those who accept a life in which too many of us devote the majority of waking hours to jobs that we hate. And I don't want a world where "Google" is more real than "Berry."


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  • link to this page. 2011-07-21 16:05:26 -0400
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  • @SocialMediaRPT tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-21 13:05:08 -0400
    Google+, Identity and The Corporation: The Second Life Purge http://t.co/ULS6ZNz #google #facebook #socialmedia RT @adrielhamptonabout
  • @catriona_cs retweeted @adrielhampton 2011-07-20 11:54:32 -0400
    ... notes that is *exclusively* youngish white males who have trashed the concept of self-identity online http://t.co/sz0gFH1
  • @LeadKJWalters tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-20 00:24:20 -0400
  • ">@joybrk tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-19 20:53:05 -0400
  • tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-19 20:38:47 -0400
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  • link to this page. 2011-07-19 20:37:58 -0400
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  • @strawberrysingh retweeted @adrielhampton 2011-07-19 20:29:50 -0400
  • @JDHancock_es tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-19 17:23:35 -0400
    Google (no usted) decide a quién usted es en Google+. Lea este poste del blog por el @adrielhampton para la prueba. http://t.co/sz0gFH1
  • @JDHancock mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-07-19 16:56:02 -0400
  • commented 2011-07-19 16:54:04 -0400
    My Google+ account was just restored. Thank you so much Adriel.
  • ">@bobfine mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-07-19 07:07:18 -0400
  • @cophotog retweeted @adrielhampton 2011-07-19 05:59:28 -0400
    Breaking down identity, anonymity, Google+, and the Second Life purge - http://t.co/sz0gFH1
  • tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-18 23:02:27 -0400
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  • link to this page. 2011-07-18 22:55:49 -0400
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  • @ChandniKhondji tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-18 12:45:10 -0400
    Google+, Identity and The Corporation: The Second Life Purge http://t.co/xHdeLHP via @adrielhampton
  • @nakeva mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-07-18 10:01:44 -0400
  • ">@dr_heiner mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-07-18 09:40:34 -0400
  • commented 2011-07-17 21:09:26 -0400
    nods http://gwynethllewelyn.net/ a well known avatar says “, I have a Mastercard on the name of “Gwyneth Llewelyn”, which is perfectly valid, legitimate, and is accepted anywhere in the world.”.

    and she lives in Portugal a country that does not allow you to change your name to anything that is not portuguese , The laws of UK Australia Canada and the USA of course allow you to call yourself anything you want provided there is no intent to do something illegal. i cant see that getting a credit card in that name would be so difficult.

    I remember when I was started working where I am now we had to give our names for government clearance and one of the other applicants was asked a week later to fill in a form saying that he wanted his pay to go to to himself because government records showed he a man in his fifties looked blank he had no idea that he had a different name on his birth certificate. And signed his usual name on the form saying he wanted the money paid to his usual name.
  • commented 2011-07-17 20:57:43 -0400
    I guess Timmy Thinkgeek will be the next casualty on G+, right? I mean, look at that profile picture… c’mon…. https://plus.google.com/109935337545178870405/posts?hl=en Oh, but wait, ThinkGeek has Klout…. nm
  • tweeted link to this page. 2011-07-17 18:59:17 -0400
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  • link to this page. 2011-07-17 18:46:38 -0400
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  • 2011-07-17 18:11:06 -0400
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  • 2011-07-17 15:24:42 -0400
  • commented 2011-07-17 13:37:33 -0400
    Wolfie,

    Great story. I too am in the military and when my “first name” is called, people often say, hey, I didn’t know your first name was “Mark”.

    I get that. That is what makes social graphing difficult. And in cases where you actually have assumed another name offline, it makes sense. But then, if you have an offline, verifiable identity offline, then you are not excluded from Google+. This isn’t about those of us who have gone by their middle name to the point that everything is in that name. This is about people who want to use a purely fictional or pretend name that has no offline bearing or meaning using it to identify themselves. To me, that is a different issue.

    In the military, I go by “Sid” or more often, “Burgess”. I have never gone by 91Wh!skey (my game avatar name). Plus, Google can’t graph that relationship between 91Wh!iskey and my mother. Not in an efficient way or in a way that makes understanding people’s profiles online simple.

    I see nothing wrong with adding your alias or even better yet, adding your accounts to the links area. Here people can see what identities you have taken on BEYOND your foundation identity. There has to be a starting point and if this was an Ancestry site, you would need to step it up a notch and require people to complete their profile using their full, legal name.
  • 2011-07-17 12:54:01 -0400

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