A number of Google Docs users have been taking to social media platforms as well as the Google Docs Help Forum today to explain that they have been unable to access some of their documents stored in Docs. Those who have encountered the issue were being presented with a message stating that the document(s) had been identified as in violation of Google's terms of service. While various reports of this have made their way to social media channels over the course of the day, it does seem as though the problem has been fixed by Google within the last few hours.
Both the acknowledgement of the issue and the confirmation of the fix have now shown up in one of the Google Docs Help Forum threads. There, Google notes that the issue has been fixed and those who had been experiencing a lock-out should now have gained access to the files once again. As for the reason behind the issue, the forum post on behalf of Google Docs states Google “made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive.” As to be expected, and as the forum post points out, once a file had been identified as abusive it was “automatically blocked.” Abusive content in general is something the company has been more aggressively fighting across its services ecosystem of late.
While the forum posts notes that the issue has now been “resolved” due to the rolling out of a fix, some have raised concerns over how Google ‘knew’ those files were files that apparently contained abusive content in the first place. In short, whether Google is scanning documents routinely for such content. While not specifically addressing this issue in the forum post, the post does note how “protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety” - which could be interrupted as some form of an answer to that question. The issue itself seemed to be one which although not massively widespread, was widespread enough to not be a specific user issue. For example, it did not seem to be specific to individual users, private or public files, personal or shared, or otherwise. In either case, this is something Google intends to make sure remains a one-day event with the fix post concluding by stating “processes” will be put in place to avoid a repeat of the issue.