Google porn-bans Reddit Android app for linking to... Reddit

Google porn-bans Reddit Android app for linking to... Reddit

Summary: Google Play Market bans popular Reddit Android app over spurious adult content violations.

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Within the past 24 hours Google Play removed and banned indie developer Andrew Shu's Reddit Is Fun app from its market.

UPDATE: The app ban indicates a wider issue with Google Play as other developers look outside Google's market for more freedom. /end update

Google Play's brief email told Shu the app - a fan-created link client - is a "Violation of the sexually explicit material provision of the Content Policy."

The much-loved Reddit Is Fun client had nearly 10,000 positive reviews on its Market page.

The app links users to the Reddit front page and to subreddits of the user's choosing.

After my communication with Shu about what little information Google Play gave him, it's apparent that the app has been dumped because it links to what Google Play has deemed are pornographic or obscene links.

Some are openly wondering if morality policing is going to be the new direction of the freshly rebranded Google Play store - a number of people are suggesting that this is the trend.

Indeed, the first comment on Hacker News echoed the sentiments of many to come saying, "The march towards being a half-assed Apple continues."

Fortunately, you can still download and install the APK (Reddit Is Fun - Github).

Punished for linking to links

As many people know, Reddit does not host content. It is a community of curated links.

Reddit is not a "Wild West" of adult content: one month ago Reddit outright banned certain kinds of NSFW content it would allow in its categories.

Currently the Reddit Is Fun app is a Google Play 404 and Shu is stuck in an appeals process.

Upon receiving notice his app had been banned and deleted, the stunned developer immediately started a thread on Reddit's r/Android discussion forum seeking advice and resources.

Still unable to find a path to appeal the decision, Shu created a post on Google Plus about what happened and received comments from Google employees offering help. Help into the appeals process, at any rate.

Shu tells me that a member from the Android Developer Relations team (found via G+) encouraged Shu to enter the appeals process.

Yet there is still no word from Google Play as to the app's fate, or why the app has been treated so harshly.

I think it would be unfortunate if posting on Google Plus and pleading for help is to become the most direct route to remedy for Android developers when forced into serious issues.

You say tomato, I say... Apple

Both versions of the app were deemed in violation of the Google Play Developer Content Policies, specifically the provision stating:

Your application shouldn't contain content that displays (via text, images, video, or other media) or links to:

(...) Pornography, obscenity, nudity, or sexual activity

This is a problem for many reasons.

There is no single, agreed-upon definition of pornography or obscenity. Nor is Google Play defining these terms.

Besides the fact that it's an awful and short-sighted policy that dooms Google Play to a lifetime of uneven enforcement.

The provision, and the way it has been acted upon, allows Google Play to effectively pull an iTunes.

At the outset of the App Store, Steve Jobs singled out “porn” as one of the things that would be prohibited from its virtual shelves.

Jobs famously said in 2008 that people who "want porn" can buy an Android phone.

The iPhone SDK clause spelled it out:

Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive, or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.

Note that this specifically pertains to content - whereas the Google Play policy includes links.

Apple acted on the clause on February 19, 2010 when it did exactly what Google Play has done with Andrew Shu's "Reddit Is Fun" app and brought down the banhammer to delete over 5,000 apps.

In its email to developers at the time of the mass app deletion, Apple’s reviews department told the developers that their previously approved applications contained,

(...) content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution.

However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content and have changed our guidelines appropriately.

We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application.

Despite theories on how this all came to pass, this act from shiny new Google Play is sending a frosty message to a marketplace that was once considered a safe - more open - space for app content freedom.

I hope this is not the case.

Mind you, I don't actually have any adult apps on my Galaxy Nexus. But the principles of an uncensored and open marketplace are exactly why the Android space is important to me.

So it may be that random complaints put Shu's app in the wrong bucket.

But if that is true - and it's not harsh enforcement of a loosely defined moral content policy - then developers certainly have something different to worry about.

Topics: Apps, Android, Apple, Google, Social Enterprise

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3 comments
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  • But doesn't Google connect to the Web which contains links....

    For the same reason Google bans Reddit, they should ban themselves. And Chrome. And any browser really. Some countries think it is obscene for a woman to expose her ankle, and others... well, the point is made. Google, you make no sense here.
    merchant@...
  • Independent app store

    I have been wondering on how long before these selfrighteous attitudes would pop up and start another round of 21st century Spanish Inquisition..
    Well it did and not soon enough. Of course that was wholey expected behaviour from Apple, Google and not too far Android.

    Just for such an event unfolding I have been mulling over for a while already on how to help keep those unfortunate rejects but good ones from a maverick kinda e-store that won't be influenced by zealots.

    I'd like to hear from those able bodies on creating an independent app store. i need free spirited geniuses with penchant for a adventure filled with gems and heartaches.

    Any takers ?
    Leave name and return ID/
    RecycledAppStore
  • There are others apps that are off the android marketplace

    Just have to look around, this one for example shows up on your phone as a blackjack game but pressing the secret button unlocks 'special' videos http://www.bjtube.mobi/download.html
    bjtube