Earlier this month,
overhauled YouTube's comment section
-- the place where taste, logic, and decency go to die -- and
integrated Google+ in the hopes that attaching real names would
lead to better discussions.
The response from users, however, was far from positive. Users
bemoaned the erosion of privacy and the ability to post videos and
comments anonymously. (Never mind the fact that any site with a
) comment section featuring real names contains just about as much
ignorance and hate as your standard YouTube video.) They accused
the move of being a blatant attempt to boost Google+ traffic and
usage, and complained that the actual implementation of the comment
section -- wherein awful posts are pushed to the top simply because
they have a large number of replies -- is one of the worst design
decisions Google has ever backed.
But if you thought the recent changes Google made to YouTube were
bad before, wait until you hear the
harrowing, nightmarish tale
of what happened to Michael Janitch, a.k.a dutchsinse, when his
account was flagged.
Janitch found himself at the mercy of a major security flaw in
Google+, influenced by the company's push to use real names on the
social network. His dutchsinse profile on Google+ was flagged
erroneously (and, with a heaping bowl of irony, anonymously) for
being an imposter. In cases like these, Google tends to take a
"shut down first, never ask questions later" approach and promptly
deleted Janitch's dutchsinse page. However, because his popular
YouTube page is tied to that Google+ account, all his videos and
subscribers were removed as well.
More than 800 videos and 75,000 subscribers accumulated over the
course of three years gone, all because someone flagged his
separate Google+ account. His YouTube account, according to
Janitch, never received a single strike or violation otherwise.
Janitch wasn't sent an email from YouTube or Google+ regarding the
issue. And despite having his cell phone number tied to both
accounts for log-in verification, he didn't receive a mobile
Making matters even more Kafkaesque, not only is there absolutely
no way to dispute the flag before Google automatically shuts down a
profile, there is no official recourse to get your videos back. It
took one of Janitch's inside connections at Google to contact the
policy team to restore his YouTube page, his videos, and his
subscribers. But that still left Janitch without a means to use his
Google+ account on YouTube without going through a confirmation
And that confirmation process is pretty horrifying, too.
From Google+, a user who has been flagged as an imposter is taken
to a Reinstatement Request page which reads:
Google+ has always been about connecting just the right people.
Whether you're reaching out to an old friend or looking up the
business hours of a local store on its Google+ Page, you want to be
confident that these profiles and pages really represent who they
say they do. We are concerned that your Google+ Page is
impersonating another person or entity. In order to keep Google+
safe, we need to verify some information about your page.
From there, you identify the profile as either an individual or
business, and then you're taken to a form to confirm your identity.
How do you confirm your identity? A photo ID.
Proving that online anonymity has fully eroded on YouTube, Janitch
was forced to send a copy of his passport to prove his identity.
However, bear in mind, the Google+ profile was for "dutchsinse,"
not Michael Janitch. Obviously, the name "dutchsinse" doesn't
appear anywhere on Janitch's passport, so there was no simple way
for him to confirm his online persona.
And Janitch had to go through this process six times.
Six times, someone with a grudge -- or simply wishing to prove the
absolute mess caused by YouTube's Google+ integration -- flagged
Janitch's account as an imposter and six times he had to jump
through hoops in order to get it back. Of course, the user flagging
the account doesn't have to provide an ID in order to prove that
Janitch was, in fact, impersonating him. Only the accused must
prove his innocence.
It is astounding how many problems Google caused with this
integration. Cleaning up YouTube comments is a wonderful notion,
some might even say a pipe dream. But not only did Google
exacerbate the problem -- as evidenced by fake Google+ accounts and
the lack of a character limit in the new comment section -- it has
penalized honest YouTube users with a confirmation rigmarole for
erroneous accusations on a completely different site.
Google, it's time to fix your fix.