As the Sneak ADtackniks have previously noted, the nym wars are all about retaining anonymity online (in the form of pseudonyms) versus having some sort of digital passport like a Facebook sign-in.

Now comes a new front in the Battle Nym of the Republic:

Google+.

From the New York Times Bits blog:

In a Switch, Google Plus Now Allows Pseudonyms

Should people be allowed to use pseudonyms online?

It is a topic of much debate, with Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus each giving different answers. On Monday, Google will change the policy on its social network to permit nicknames and pseudonyms.

But wait – there’s a hitch:

[N]ot any pseudonym will pass muster. Google will allow nicknames, maiden names and pseudonyms if the person can prove to Google that he or she is known by that name elsewhere, in published material or on other social networks.

“We want to build a product that is for humanity at large, and we recognize people have many notions around identity and ways to represent themselves,” said Bradley Horowitz, a vice president of product who works on Google Plus. “We want to be as inclusive as possible while still ensuring the integrity of the system and the community.”

By “ensuring the integrity of the system and the community,” of course, Google means “still being able to track you and sell your data to our marketing community.” (See here for further details.)

In other words, a Google+ pseudonym will still be attached to your online identity. Which means it’s not really a pseudonym at all.

Welcome to the Potemkin Internet.


John Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
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