Some questions about Google

Salil Mehta writes,

On Friday afternoon East Coast Time by surprise, I was completely shut down in all my Google accounts (all of my gmail accounts, blog, all of my university pages that were on google sites, etc.) for no reason and no warning.

A couple years ago, Tyler Cowen linked to one of Mehta’s blog posts, and I linked to it also.

Mehta received a form letter from Google saying that he had violated its terms of service.

My questions:

1. If I search the terms of service for “terminate account,” I only find a reference to copyright infringement and “repeat infringers.” Otherwise, the terms of service do not appear to list any specific reasons for terminating someone’s account. What other offenses, if any, can lead Google to terminate accounts?

2. What is Google’s policy with respect to giving warnings prior to terminating accounts?

3. Google’s terms of service state that

We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.

I guess this refers to Google generically terminating a service for everyone, as they did with their blog newsreader. But what happens when an account is terminated? Does the individual have any way of recovering old blog posts, emails, and email contact lists?

[UPDATE] 4. As usual, I schedule posts in advance, and in the interim professor Mehta’s accounts have been restored. That raises the question of what prompted this decision (and the other three questions still remain unanswered).

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5 Responses to Some questions about Google

  1. Otto Maddox says:

    And so continues Google’s reign of terror.

  2. Lord says:

    For the complete terms, try signing up for a new account, all those accepted without reading because they are too long. Spamming would be a significant one, whether through security breach or not, but the list is long. Active breaches would have to be terminated and security reset to prevent attacks.

  3. Handle says:

    Jordan Peterson just went through a similar experience. The problem is probably due to crowd-sourcing the filtering function and allowing anyone to “flag” for “problematic” content. That’s just an invitation for the usual suspects to organize into an online lynch mob and pile on en masse.

    When this happens current practice seems to be Kafka-esque: immediate “suspension” without notice, some generic boilerplate about violating terms of service, radio silence or more boilerplate as people try to contact customer service, some kind of “investigation” and then, if you’re lucky, after some indefinite period, everything comes back on without any explanation about anything, sometimes with full privileges, and something behind all kinds of warning, no metrics, and no ability to monetize content.

    So, I think it’s a better approximation of reality if everyone simply assumes that various ideals articulated in the terms of service are PR, don’t matter, and that Google can terminate anybody’s account without having to provide any notice, reason, time, or access to data.

    The terms of service are there to protect the companies, not the users.

    Even if one has an air-tight case, while is highly unlikely, then unless there’s really big money on the line, it’s still not worth anyone’s while to try and sue. The only hope one has is to have the resources and popularity to generate just as big a PR problem for the company as they are trying to avoid by purging you.

    If one doesn’t like that deal, it’s best to avoid Google platforms altogether.

  4. MG says:

    Are Progressives going to get their wish to make Google and Facebook have to operate more like public utilities? Devilishly, they are helping their cause by handing Google et al the rope with which to hang themselves — demanding censorship and disparate treatment in the name of political correctness. While Conservatives and Libertarians have had no big beef with the tech giants’ economic power, they are starting to have a big beef with the giants’ acting as tools of unelected governance. The former should resist this, BUT use it as a threat to call the Silicon Valley Progressive bluff.

    • Octavian says:

      Conservatives and libertarians could hit back in two ways without demanding state intervention. On one hand they can raise outcry in response to cases of political censorship to get such censorship rolled back. The problem with that is few advertisers are going to say ‘we won’t advertise until you restore Jordan Petersen’s account.’

      The other way is ‘an eye for an eye.’ Throw public fits to get google or twitter to ban feminists/progressives/etc. for the slightest offensive remark about men, white people, Christianity, Israel, etc. That way at least both sides will be handicapped.

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