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Google Docs Is Terrifyingly Locking People Out of Their Documents

Everyone loves Google Docs! Your work saves automatically every few seconds, and you can access your documents from any internet-connected computer in the world — and any phone, too. It’s much better than the bad old days of Microsoft Word, where declining to save or forgetting to share your document means that you might never see it again. Google Docs is the perfect editing suite … right up until Google locks you out of your own documents for arbitrary reasons it refuses to explain.

Several users on Twitter and Reddit today are reporting that they’ve been locked out of their content for — according to Google — violating Google’s terms of service. Which terms of service? In its warnings, Google doesn’t say specifically. Topics of the content in question range from wildfire crimes, to post-socialist Europe, to the video game RuneScape.

It’s unclear exactly what is causing users to be locked out, though it’s likely, as some have noted on Twitter, that this is just a glitch in Google’s systems — a spam-detection system gone rogue. “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Docs,” a Google spokesperson told Select All. “We will provide more information when appropriate.” But that’s not exactly comforting, is it? Google Drive is hugely convenient for collaborative, accessible work. But this is a good reminder that you don’t really “have” everything you’re putting on it — Google does, on servers somewhere, and can take away as quickly and easily as it gives. For now, I’ll be drafting all my blog posts on an Underwood typewriter. Just to be safe.

Update, October 31, 2017, at 3:41 p.m.: A Google spokesperson provided the following explanation for the Docs issue. “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 full access to their docs. Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety. We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again.”

Google Docs Is Locking Out Users for No Good Reason