How to Get Suspended on Google+

First of all, a disclaimer: I cannot be 100% sure all of the described below is not a coincidence and there wasn’t something else that I didn’t know about that factored in.

Yesterday, Matt Cutts reposted this post by Andrew Bunner, a software engineer from Google:

If you see a person with an obviously fake name, go to their profile and find the “Report Profile” link in the bottom of the left column. Report it as a “Fake Profile”. We want Google+ to be place for real people to connect with other real people.

This was no surprise, given (1) Google’s stance on such profiles and (2) Google’s previous attempts at encouraging users to report what it doesn’t like, be it paid links or anything else. So I commented saying:

So as usual, no algorithmic way to discover what Google doesn’t like but it just encourages users to file spam reports – now in the form of abuse reports on G+

Then I reposted the original post saying:

Google at its best – powered by abuse reports :-)

Next thing I know, I get kicked out of my Google account (including email), get forced to verify it using mobile (never happened before), get back into my email but in Google+ I get a screen saying my account has been suspended for “suspicious activity” and violating their TOS. It gives me a link to submit my account for reconsideration (sounds rather ominous, given the analogy with submitting penalized sites for reconsideration that hardly ever results in anything positive until the 90 days of penalty run out). I click the link, it then tells me my account is being reviewed and in the meantime has “limited functionality” (which means me still getting spammed by all their notifications while not being able to post anything myself).

By this time I get slightly pissed off and post on Twitter:

Man is Google sensitive to criticism! I commented in G+ that they rely on abuse reports rather than algorithm and my account got suspended

Google acts like a 5-year-old
which part of this http://t.co/H9EE1kL do I violate by criticizing Google?

Next morning, my account is back to normal.

So what happened? Has someone at Google got offended by my comments? Have fellow G+ users decided to test the reporting functionality on me? (me using something slightly different than my legal name actually does make me a target, what would have happened if they decided to test it on Matt Cutts instead? would his account get suspended as well?) Has something else happened that I wasn’t aware of, like somebody trying to access my account from somewhere else?

Talking of the review: is this their normal time span for a review of a suspended account? Did my less-than-happy posts on Twitter helped speed it up as Google didn’t want any bad publicity?

I guess we can only get the correct answers to all of the above questions if somebody from Google decides to comment on this post. However, this whole story does make one important point stand out in the discussion about how Google+ is different from any other social networks, namely:

ALL OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS USE YOUR EMAIL FOR SIGNUP AND NOTIFICATIONS, WHILE GOOGLE+ IS YOUR EMAIL!

If you get your G+ account suspended, you actually get your whole Google account suspended, including access to your email. If your Gmail account is your main email account, and you have years’ worth of data in it, that surely hurts. Oh, but there’s the Data Liberation thing Google now offers, you say, and you can get it all back via backup there – but being suspended you cannot even do that, that’s the whole issue. So Google locks you in, and there’s no way out. So much for Google trying to get us to use our real identity, main mail account and being an authentic persona in its services!

*Off to continue creating a bunch of zombie Buy Viagra G+ accounts*

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