LOS ANGELES—Now wait a second here. Google, the world's single most powerful disseminator of links to porn sites and to visual images of porn itself, is getting squeamish about ... porn? Isn't that the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black? Or perhaps a case of life imitating art?
"I am shocked ... shocked to find that porn is going on in here!"
"Your winnings, sir."
"Oh, thank you, very much."
The wildfire started suddenly and spread quickly. As soon as the app's developer, Andrew Shu, heard from Google that both the free and pay version of Reddit is Fun, which allow people to interact with Reddit.com, had been pulled from Google Play—formerly Android Market—he jumped into action, posting the news to a Reddit chat board for Android developers.
"Wow. I wasn't expecting this," he wrote. "I got 2 emails from the Google Play Store telling me my apps, reddit is fun lite and pro, have been banned for sexually explicit material.
"I'm not sure how to go about appealing this. After all it's true that reddit content includes NSFW content. Not sure exactly why my app was singled out and the other reddit apps weren't, though.
"Any thoughts? Should I even bother appealing? As always I appreciate your input."
According to Violet Blue over at ZDNet, who posted her coverage of this story today, "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."
In his Reddit board posts yesterday, Shu seemed to confirm that account, despite the insistence of a Google employee named Dave Nicponsk who posted a comment to a separate Google+ thread started by Shu, saying, "So I've spoken with the appropriate people here @ google. There seems to be some (very large) confusion about what actually happened. Expect to hear back shortly. To the masses decrying 'censorship! Oh noes!' That's not what happened here at all. Hopefully Andrew will be able to confirm this shortly. It really is a very tiny thing that seems to have caused this. Just be patient."
Shu responded on the Reddit thread, "The Google Play appeals team have responded to my appeal. They asked me for more clarification on a few points all surrounding the inclusion of NSFW reddits in the default list. So that, as many of you already guessed, is what concerns them about the app. I replied already and will update when I hear back a second time."
In the subsequent Reddit thread it was surmised that the app may have had a NSFW filter set to a default off position, allowing subreddit links to be more prevalent than Google is comfortable with allowing. But it could also be that when NSFW links were found in the app, that the connection to Reddit was in and of itself enough to warrant the extreme measure of removing the app from the store. Reddit, after all, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to its recent decision to finally ban “suggestive or sexual content featuring minors.”
On the other hand, if any company should be expected to know that Reddit did in fact make that decision previously, that company is Google. The unarticulated reason for the banishment and slow follow-up, therefore, in many ways justifies the concern of many that, as Blue put it, "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."
Those interested in checking out the Reddit is Fun app can find it here.