You Aren't Alone - Google Docs Is Locking People Out of Their Files

Pablo Tucker
November 1, 2017

On Tuesday morning, National Geographic wildlife crime reporter Rachael Bale asked on Twitter if anyone else had experienced Google Docs locking them out of a document before.

A message displayed to affected users explained that Google had made their files inaccessible because they were "inappropriate" and "in violation of our Terms of Service". In 2007, reporters noted that Google's Terms of Service seemed to allow the company "worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license" to distribute user-created content "for the objective of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services".

While another added: "My google docs are a mess". Users complained they've lost access to their files that contain harmless material, like mundane school assignments and an in-process article about Halloween.

According to Google's terms of service, content of any type on any of its services can be blocked for obvious reasons such as copyright infringement and impersonation, but also for more gray reasons, like hate speech and violence.

Google offers Docs and Drive under the usual rules, which disallow abusive or illegal content. Our automated systems analyze this information as it is sent and received and when it is stored'.

Users have been reporting that they are receiving a message saying, "This item has been flagged as inappropriate and can no longer be shared", with options to request a review or dismiss.

It's that flagging mechanism that went haywire, we're told.

'A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs.

Google's spokesperson said that protecting users from malware and abusive content is part of the company's strategy for keeping users safe online and apologized for the disruption while promising to implement safeguards to prevent its safeguards from getting out of hand.

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