Google+ Under Fire Over Suggested User List

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Google is under fire from complaints after it started offering suggested user lists for Google+

Google+ now included a suggested user list and it seems that it is already causing quite a stir in social media circles.

Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management for Google+, tipped his hand to the effort in a tweet on Twitter 2 September, noting: “We’re about to pilot a ‘suggested user’-like mechanism on Google+. If you’ve got more than 100k followers on Twitter, DM me – let’s talk!”

And here is the link to get started cherry-picking from the list:

Popular People

Meanwhile Huffington Post Senior Editor Craig Kanalley found this list of famous folks. It includes actor/businessman Ashton Kutcher, singer Britney Spears and the indomitable actor William Shatner.

When Twitter launched its list two years ago, it made life easier for users who wanted new people to follow but didn’t know how to find them. It also jacked up follower rates for popular people such as the celebrities listed above.

The result was that it made Twitter noisier, and left others wanting more followers at a disadvantage. Suggested user lists, after all, don’t contribute to a level playing field.

Already the scepticism is rolling in on Google+. Kanalley noted:

“I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s going to alienate people and lead to an inevitable followers war that can hurt the health of the social network and inflate people’s egos. As the famous get more followers, the non-featured fall farther behind, and a giant gap is created between the two. This is what happened on Twitter.”

The Blog Report Executive Producer Zennie 62, who is black, complained the list is “overwhelmingly white.”:

“The Google Suggested User List reads like the typical San Francisco Bay Area tech firm’s view of the World: most of the “interesting and famous people” are white, and if they’re black, they’re male rappers or athletes. Hello, Snoop Dog, Chamillionaire, 50 Cent, Dwight Howard, and Floyd Mayweather!”

Zennir 62 further wondered whether Google didn’t believe black women were noteworthy enough to put on its suggested user list.

Google Response

Horowitz posted this list of suggestions for utilising the suggested user list on Google+, noting that users need to be interesting if they want to get followed.

He didn’t address Zennie 62’s complaints of racist actions by Google, but did addressed Kanalley’s concern of favouritism, which is shared by many in the social media sector:

“Today’s list isn’t yet personalised. At first personalisation will be “lite” – users in different regions and languages will get different recommendations. But per above, we intend to allow people to deeply personalise and connect with like-minded people that create great content around almost any topic they care about.

He added that popular people must retain their position on the list by creating compelling content.

The bigger story is how Google+ is becoming more official leaning. In addition to suggested user list, there are verified accounts and serious consequences for users who don’t use their real names on the social network.

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