Google Plus says my name is not allowed — now what?

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By Christopher Elliott

Google Plus doesn’t like David Books’ name. And now it’s stopped listening to his requests for a social media account. Is there anything he can do to get the company’s attention?

Question

Could you possibly help me with an issue that continually keeps popping up for me. Because of my name — Books — I keep getting denied the right to set up an account with Google Plus, Google’s social network.

I have used Google’s email service for years under my legal name, but when I tried to set up a Google Plus account, I was denied because of my name violating their name policy. I sent a copy of my driver’s license, but was still denied.

There is no way to appeal the denial. Sending Google my Facebook credentials could be a better option, but the same problem exists there as well. I can’t establish a Facebook account because of (you guessed it) my last name.

I have been asked during job interviews if I have a presence on social media and have explained that I do not. My degrees are in computers, so I get really strange looks from people.

It would be nice to talk with someone who can look at the documentation and realize that this is my real name. The funny thing is, I have been able to establish a LinkedIn account and a YouTube account. What is wrong with these people? — David Books, Phoenix

Answer

My thoughts exactly. I checked out the emails between you and Google Plus, and it looks as if the review of your documentation was at best cursory.

The Google Plus rules make sense on one level. Google doesn’t want someone setting up a personal account under a fake name or as a business. So words like “books” or “music” are probably not allowed. Which is a problem if your name is David Books or David Music.

“We want users to be able to find each other using the name they already use with their friends, family, and coworkers,” Google told you in its form response. “For most people this is their legal name, or some variant of it, but we recognize that this isn’t always the case, and we allow for other common names in Google+ — specifically, those that represent an individual with an established online identity with a meaningful following.”

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But if that were true, Google should have seen your ID and approved a David Books account, knowing you were not an author named David who is trying to promote his latest work. But that didn’t happen.

Challenging Google’s lack of accountability

This isn’t the first time Google has brushed off a customer like this. My last book trailer was briefly banned from YouTube. An action that took down several other Google accounts that belonged to me. You’d think a company as large and successful as Google would have a process in place to prevent a “bad name” case from being wrongfully dismissed.

You could have tried sending an appeal to one of Google’s executives. They’re known to answer their emails personally, and might have passed your request along to the right person. But it’s hardly a sure thing. (Here’s our guide to contacting the CEO of a company directly.)

My efforts to help you led me on a long odyssey. My initial attempts to contact Google through its media relations department were unsuccessful. I made several calls to the company, and a representative finally responded and agreed to “look into” your case. A few days later, Google reported that your case had been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Is Google too difficult to reach?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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