Vaneeesa Blaylock descending the steps of the federal courthouse in San Jose, CA after her losing her appeal against Google Inc. today

The Public Square

Vaneeesa Blaylock descending the steps of the federal courthouse in San Jose, CA after her losing her appeal against Google Inc. today

ROBERT F PECKHAM FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, SAN JOSE, 2 May — Today Google Inc. made permanent their ban of Vaneeesa Blaylock from their unpopular social network site Google+, declaring Blaylock an illegitimate human being, her identity false, and determining that she had no civil rights and no human rights. In a written statement Justice Gundotra denied Blaylock’s name appeal, declaring that he could see no data mining revenues from “Miss Blaylock” (sic) that would warrant letting her play with his toys. After Justice Gundotra’s ruling a distraught Blaylock rushed out of the building and descended the steps of the courthouse. Fighting back tears the African-American-Avatar stated that she would take no questions, and then proceeded to take them anyway.

This is a civil rights issue. The physical public square is no longer the home of speech in our culture, for better or worse, it is the online social network. When our corporate overlords at NationState2.0’s like Facebook Inc, and Google Inc, deny us the right to speech on their ubiquitous platforms they deny us the basic civil right of free speech and the basic human right of the ability to participate in culture.

That our overlords can state “if you don’t like our terms you can leave” is an insufficient defense when they are the gatekeepers of the eyes and ears of our culture, the gatekeepers of the hearts and minds of our culture, to deny speech where the audience is, and to instead offer it in a cordoned-off area where few will ever be able to hear it, is to deny civil and human rights.

Larry Page speaking with reporters outside the Federal Courthouse in San Jose, CA after his corporation successfully defeated Vaneeesa Blaylock's civil right lawsuit against it

Walking down the courthouse steps Blaylock seemed surprised by a reporter’s question that Larry Page had argued that since Facebook has at least 5 times more users than Google+, that Google+ was an irrelevant social network on par with MySpace, and that therefore, unlike Facebook, Google+ was incapable of denying anyone their civil rights. In response Blaylock only shook her head and mumbled incoherently.

Reaching Google Street Viewβ„’ Blaylock removed her sunglasses, wiped back her tears with her fingers, cleared her throat, and began to speak more clearly and more loudly:

Civil Rights is an enormously large and vitally important ideal; we should never invoke it lightly; but we should also never be afraid to invoke it.

Let’s be clear about this, Black people have been murdered because of the color of their skin. They have been denied jobs and denied an equal opportunity to earn a living wage. They have been massively, disproportionately locked away in our prisons. LGBT people have been abused and murdered. In fact the term “drag” comes from the ancient practice of tying a gay person to the back of a cart and dragging them through the streets of the city to pay for their “crimes.” Women have beaten, raped, and murdered, or if they survive, then raped again in our courthouses. Obese people are abused and marginalized every single day of their lives. Senior Citizens are abused, battered, and left to die on the ash heap of contemporary culture.

Against the horrific backdrop of so many chauvinistic crimes of the past and unfortunately of the present as well, do I really want to claim that Google Inc. is violating my civil rights by denying my speech in the public square of the 21st century?

Yes, I do.

R E L A T E D . M A T E R I A L S

β€’ Vaneeesa’s post on “Equal Protection” (Facebook Purges)
β€’ Big Thunder Mountain (Vaneeesa’s theory that Social Networks are like Rides at Disneyland)

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

14 thoughts on “The Public Square

    1. Thanks Miso, as Botgirl noted some time ago, there’s nothing like being under the thumb of a giant, faceless corporation to ignite your passion! πŸ˜›

      And, honestly, I can’t deny how humiliating it is when a service you didn’t really want an account on anyway… informs you that you’re an insufficient human being to use their tools.

        1. Yes, humiliating and scaring, how powerplay manipulates someone’s right to exist . .
          Btw . . I left Facebook this week πŸ™‚
          My powerplay to get rid of their game:-)

          1. Thank you Wizard! Thank you Meandr@!

            I think you can’t, in a way, lose by boycotting that which you believe is oppositional to your values and beliefs. I also though, think that they will always do just fine without us, and that staying and representing your identity might be even more effective.

            If you think about racism, homophobia, misogyny, weight shaming, ageism, ableism… the truth is, the dominant culture would love it if people just disappeared. It’s only when you take to the streets and chant “We’re Here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!”

            It’s only when you take to the streets and sing “We shall overcome.” It’s only when Farmworkers sing those words in Spanish, or people sing them in Prague, or Bobby Kennedy sings them in South Africa…

            It’s only when people find the courage to stand up and be counted, to be heard, to be seen, that change eventually becomes possible.

            Yes it would be easier to just hang out at places like MySpace or Twitter or Plurk where we’re welcome. And I’m definitely not telling you to go hang out at Facebook or anyplace else where you’re not comfortable or where you simply find the content banal or useless. But I do believe that change only happens when you’re willing to stand up and be represented in the places where you aren’t welcome. That’s what Rosa Parks did. That’s what Miep Gies did.

            So I do believe that it’s important to stand up at places like Facebook or Google+ where we’re not welcome. People have done this for generations in the physical world. They’ve often been beaten for their courage but over time their courage to stand up and be heard has created change.

            I think we can draw inspiration from their extraordinary courage and struggle to be heard, and find our own courage to be counted in the ever expanding virtual space where we risk only a “virtual beating.”

          2. Yes, but speaking for myself in this: Facebook is not the place for me to be in the end. Too many polished identities, too much: look how nice and fancy my life is. I chose to leave Facebook because of that actually. As a platform for activism I do like it sometimes, but I prefer to be unfacebooked by myself, the hermit I am by heart in the first place :-))
            But yes I share your point of views about being seen and heard makes more power than being invisible. But don’t worry . . . this was and is not a surrender. This is wanting silence and some amount of valuable time back in my life, less wasteful in a way πŸ™‚

            1. Aww, you’re baiting me off the topic of Google+ and Civil Rights! πŸ˜›

              I think of Facebook as a waffle iron. Your batter may have more blueberries in it… my batter may have more butter in it… but we all pour the batter of our lives into the Facebook waffle iron and we all pop out mostly similar waffles.

              I think this is both true and not true.

              I think Facebook is the world’s greatest (ever) baby photo sharing website. When my mother looks at pix of her little grandnieces, whether it’s the ones who live close yet she doesn’t manage to see them often enough, or the ones who live far and she rarely gets to see: those images are real, and personal, and powerful, and as important as anything in this world to her. There is no real sense in which they are repetitive waffles, they are her family.

              Still, if you look at Your, or My, or Wizard’s or Miso’s websites, I think they all “look” far more like the person than our corresponding Facebook pages which do have a certain genericicity to them.

              Actually, WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr do have a degree of WordPressfulness, Bloggerfulness and Tumblrfulness to them… but I think it’s very different and much lighter than the ubiquitous Facebookfulness. I really do think that all of our blogs are much more faithful portraits of people and ideas than our austere, digital Herman Miller cubicles or minimalist, geometric van der Rohe spaces.

  1. And not to mention the way you are the most addicted (dedicated is the nicer expression) user I know in my personal life of all these possibilities πŸ˜›
    Anyway. You are dead on Google+. Any idea if it was by accident (just bad luck) or by being reported like they do on facebook sometimes?

    1. No Meandr@, I wasn’t “reported”… Because of the many issues of the nymwars, I’ve actually never signed up in all this time. Google has increasingly pushed G+ in our faces at every turn (irony?) (schizophrenia?) but whenever I’ve made one of those “inadvertent” clicks that took me into G+ I just clicked right out.

      But on Sunday and Monday I was reading a lot about the way Google, in there incessant threading of everything through G+ (pretty much the same way that Microsoft once tried to buoy up their floundering Web Browser by weaving it like a cancer thru every aspect of their OS)

      … about how Google was linking your use of the HTML5 rel=author tag to their search results… BUT… you had to link it to your Google+ profile to receive their golden links…

      So after thinking about the risks of signing up for Google+ for 2 days I went ahead and signed up with the name I’ve used on ALL Google products for the past 3 years, the name I’ve used on all Web2.0 platforms for the past 3 years (except Facebook) “Vaneeesa Blaylock”

      As soon as I typed it in and clicked submit it said my name was unacceptable. Since I was rejected so fast, I assume they use a simple algorithm that says “real” names never have 3 e’s in them. The one site in 3 years that said my name was an abomination to their world was Facebook, where I’m “Vanessa Blaylock”… so G+ probably uses a similar algorithm to Facebook.

      When G+ determines that YOUR name doesn’t meet THEIR needs, they give you 3 options:
      1. GTFO
      2. Change your name to meet their needs
      3. Appeal that you’re not just BSing them, but it’s really your name

      I thought about just changing it to “Vanessa Blaylock” since Facebook’s been happy with that name for 3 years. But then I figured my goal of using their rel=author to my “Vaneeesa Blaylock” posts would get messed up. So I decided to appeal. When you click appeal you get a screen with more stuff to read and then you can click appeal again… then you get yet another screen with more stuff to read and you can click appeal again…

      After you click Appeal 3 or 4 times you finally get to the appeal screen. You can either submit online sources to show that this is “the name you consistently use” or else physical documents like passports and birth certificates.

      I clicked to send them URL’s… when you give them one it gives you a little “+” if you want to give them another… when you give them a 5th URL you no longer get a “+” so if you want to demonstrate your online presence / persistence Google limits you to proving it in 5 URLs.

      I gave them 5 URL’s that I thought made a pretty good case that for the past 3 years I have persistently and extensively used “Vaneeesa Blaylock” as the common identity by which people know me around the internet.

      I did all this on Monday.

      On Wednesday I received a short, form email from Google Inc that in their judgement my name was unacceptable.

      1. Wow . . . impressive how made your efforts and completed all their stupid forms. . .
        Even more impressive how things work behind the screens. Where are the days of Google being more idealistic and less data minded . . .

        1. hahaha, the days of Google Inc. being a couple of idealistic grad school dropouts were a long time ago.

          I probably wasn’t even rejected by a “real” Google employee… the task probably just went out to a Mechanical Turker to make the decision in 60 seconds or so and be paid a half a cent for doing it.

          The fact that he was paying an astronomical fortune for his Ivy League grad school program that he wasn’t working on because he was “playing” Mechanical Turk for pennies on the hour… and whatever unresolved issues he still has with his mother… I’m sure figured into the decision in no way whatsoever…

          Not, mind you, that I’m bitter or anything! πŸ˜›

          1. Rock on . . . I go to my bed here now. Dreaming of Google + versus Google – or something like that. Google Dataminus would be better nickname probably.

            1. Vaneeesa, you are on the edge now. Saying that it is a public square and everyone might have access to it, you know what answer could give you Google ? Very simple, as time as you want it public, pay for it ! In other words, they will ask people to transform it into a subsidized service, by government or by anyone else. As time as is public, they would be correct, right ? Do you want rights ? Pay for them !

              1. That’s not really an option Eruditions. I don’t mind paying for services. I actually like it. I pay many different small fees to WordPress, to Tumblr, to Flickr, to 500px, to Kickstarter, obviously to Amazon where I’ve both paid money to MechanicalTurk workers and earned money as a MechanicalTurk worker.

                But neither Google+ nor Facebook has a “Free Speech” or “Civil Rights” or “Human Rights” option where instead of giving them your orthonym or “wallet ID” you can pay them US$25/year to use their service with the persistent pseudonym of your choice. I’d be fine with that.

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