Extinguished by the Platform

What happens if a service you lean on for a key, everyday piece of your life suddenly is wiped away? You don’t need to wonder, that happened to the Terraria developer. Quoting the linked Ars Technica article:

Three weeks ago, the official Terraria Twitter account publicly pleaded with YouTube for some kind of resolution to a recent Google account ban. The Terraria account explained, “We have not added anything new to our only YT channel (RelogicGames) in several months. However, we randomly received an email saying there was a TOS violation but that it was likely accidental and as such, the account would receive no strikes.” The Terraria Twitter account continued, “Three days later, the entire Google account (YT, Gmail, all Google apps, even every purchase made over 15 years on Google Play Store) was disabled with no warning or recourse. This account links into many business functions and as such the impact to us is quite substantial.”

This is eerily similar to tales I’ve heard from friends running YouTube channels. In the case of one friend, their channel was copyright struck after posting a video critical of a work that a media company had released. That media company had wielded the DMCA as a bludgeon against a consumer to suppress opinion of them.

Best of luck if you think that you can reach a human being to resolve issues at Google, by the way. They are pretty notorious for leaving everything to the algorithms of the system which are very opaque even to the people working on them. Andrew Spinks announced the following on Twitter:

I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge. Consider it burned. #Terraria for @GoogleStadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward.

— Andrew Spinks (@Demilogic) February 8, 2021

It’s unfortunate that a high profile game was pushed to such extreme lengths but what are you supposed to do? If a relative celebrity like the developer of Terraria can’t get his issues resolved, then how could you? What if you needed tax forms or banking documents?

A couple of suggestions I have if you’re considering changes:

  1. Personal Email Domains and hosting
    • This is not a free option but it is a safe option, if you own your own domain, you can always change hosts from Gmail to Outlook to anyone else as needed without giving out a new email address. I use Fastmail and am very happy with them.
  2. Backup your files somewhere else
    • Do not leave your files with the same place you host accounts such as youtube or email, its tempting to unify these things for usability’s sake but like in this case, you may lose everything. Consider for example, if you use Gmail, back up your files on OneDrive or Dropbox.
    • I prefer neither options owned by large corporate partners so I opt to host my own Nextcloud instance on a VPS provided by Vultr. This requires a reasonably high degree of technical knowledge, especially Linux but they also have pre-configured images and a motivated person could get it working. Drop me a line if you need some help.
  3. Decentralize social media
    • I suggest perhaps doing what I do here: blog on your own site and then syndicate the feeds to other social media that way if a single account gets taken down, your site is not totally offline. This option is great especially if you’re running a business.

Rather than overload people with a big long list starting here is a first great start in decentralizing the internet again.