Google tightens restrictions on apps with sexual content, loot boxes, hate speech, and marijuana sales
Google is making a number of policy changes to the Google Play store and the applications that are allowed to be inside it. This seems to be both a big push towards making the Play Store more family friendly while also clearing up some gray areas that developers have been curious about. The latest changes come as new, tighter restrictions on applications that include sexual content, loot boxes, hate speech, and marijuana sales. Some of these are legal in various parts of the world, but Google wants to make sure developers are aware that they are not permitted in the Google Play application store.
The legalization of recreational marijuana is a growing movement here in the United States while it has been legal in other countries around the world. Businesses are looking at this as a major gold rush and are trying to come up with as many ways to make money off the market as possible. Even if it’s legal in your state, Google will not allow applications that facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality. Google has even given us some examples of common violations (because again, this is legal in some states, provinces, and countries around the world):
- Allowing users to order marijuana through an in-app shopping cart feature.
- Assisting users in arranging the delivery or pick up of marijuana.
- Facilitating the sale of products containing THC.
However, these apps can stay in the Google Play Store as long as they move the shopping features out of the app. Google issued this statement on the matter:
These apps simply need to move the shopping cart flow outside of the app itself to be compliant with this new policy. We’ve been in contact with many of the developers and are working with them to answer any technical questions and help them implement the changes without customer disruption.
Sexual content in the Google Play Store has always been a hot-button issue with many Reddit apps being banned for it. Before, Google said they prohibited “sexually explicit content” and now they have described this policy as a simple ban on “sexual content.” This also covers “sex-related entertainment” as well, for those who were wondering. Google’s definition of hate speech hasn’t changed in this wave of policy updates but they have now included a list of common violations:
- Compilations of assertions intended to prove that a protected group is inhuman, inferior or worthy of being hated.
- Apps that contain theories about a protected group possessing negative characteristics (e.g. malicious, corrupt, evil, etc.), or explicitly or implicitly claims the group is a threat.
- Content or speech trying to encourage others to believe that people should be hated or discriminated against because they are a member of a protected group.
Loot boxes are becoming a new topic among politicians these days with some countries outright banning them while others are forcing developers to disclose the odds of receiving certain items in the in-app purchase. China implemented this as a law in their country recently but developers have figured out a way around it. It will be interesting to see how this new rule is enforced but Google says Android app developers who offer these “randomized virtual items” need to “disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase.”