Google Docs as Word Processor Alert

If you use Google Docs as your Word Processor, you need to be aware of this!” proclaimed the clickbait, and I do, so thought I’d better give in and click through. Here’s what it said:


It turns out that Google locked “a ton of users” (eish) out of their documents due to “inappropriate content”. The issue with this seems to be twofold. Firstly, that there was no “inappropriate content” within the documents in question. And yes, it turns out that this was an error on Google’s part: something they acknowledged and apologised for, stating:

This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have access to their docs.

And then secondly:

…the incident raises important questions about the control Google Docs users have over their own content. The potential to lose access to an important document because it hasn’t yet been polished to remove certain references or sensitive material has concrete implications for the way Google Docs is used.

Well yes, I suppose so. In the same way that using MS Windows apparently opens me up to all sorts of hacking and viruses, and in the same way that using online banking apparently puts me at risk of phishing and the like.

So yes, it might happen, but in all reality, it really probably won’t. And, when you think about it, it really actually hasn’t. This was an error which was corrected and which shouldn’t happen again.

“Google’s abuse policy prohibits the posting of serious threats, needlessly graphic or violent content, hate speech, harassment, confidential information, pornography, and anything illegal including child exploitation and copyrighted content.”

So if you’re writing that sort of thing, maybe you need to look elsewhere for your word processing requirements, and maybe also for your kicks.

I don’t pay for Google Docs, but of course some people do. I’d guess that we all agreed to these policies when we signed up though. (You did read all the Ts&Cs, didn’t you?) And so, as usual, it comes back to that simple adage: if you don’t like it, don’t use it.

But for me, much like using Windows and online banking, the convenience and economic benefits far outweigh any potential “censorship”.

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