It’s no secret, now, that from time to time, Google will remove an application from the Android market (mainly only if it violates the terms to which the developer agreed before he set up his market account or if they find the app is malicious or dangerous). An analyst taking a break through his busy number-crunching day went for a stroll in the Android market one day and – to his disgust – found Hitler themes when he searched the word “Jewish”.
According to the analyst – Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group – Google contacted him after he publicly thrashed about the app and agreed that it was “upsetting and violates TOS.” The violation? Obscenity, but I can’t judge that having never installed or used the themes for myself. Obscenity is very subjective, and while I’m sure a majority of folks in this world aren’t exactly gunning to become president of Hitler’s fan club, can you really consider images of the man and the logo he once donned “obscene”? We see it everywhere now, and it just so happens to be in the Android market, as well.
This particular case has an interesting twist, though, where searching the word “Jewish” could lead an unsuspecting Jewish user to the hurtful logo that’s been cursed by their ancestors for decades. Could it invoke psychological distress? Absolutely. But if we consider the definition of the word “obscene”, does the app really convey obscenity in such a way that Google would see fit to remove it without hesitation? Perhaps a slap on the wrist until the developer removes instances of the word “Jewish” from its description would suffice as that’s what’s bringing the app up in search terms in the first place.
If there were hateful words or images in tow, then yes: I’d agree with Google in a heartbeat. But then again, I haven’t seen these themes myself, so only those who had the displeasure of installing it (not many, according to recent market data) – and Google – can truly judge this instance. I’m not pro-Nazi, as much as my commentary might make me out to seem (and I like Google’s judgment, if we’re considering only this case), but I’d just like a bit more consistency in the Android market when it comes to these sorts of things (there are certain other “flags” and content in the market that I’m sure a few other groups don’t take kindly to). Fair is only fair until the top of the food chain doesn’t agree with you, in case any other developer still needs a clear warning.
If there’s one thing anyone can’t deny about the “walled garden” Apple polices, it’s that they at least make it clear what you can and can’t do and will take action before the first user calls foul. At the end of the day, I’m just wishing Google would stop trying to emulate a completely hands-off approach when it’s clear that a higher degree of regulation and consistency to enforce those regulations are needed (and desired, depending on who you are).