John Hugh DeMastri on September 1, 2022
- Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social was denied access to Google Play Store, necessary for the app to have access to Android phones.
- However, a wide variety of apps on the Google Play Store, including some with hundreds of millions of users, appear to be in violation of Google’s Developer Policy.
- Truth Social accused Google of allowing apps that “rampantly” violated Google’s policy on sexual content.
While Donald Trump’s social media network Truth Social has been denied access to the Google Play Store for reportedly violating its Terms of Service, other apps remain on the service despite seeming to violate the Google Developer Policy.
A Daily Caller News Foundation review of apps still publicly available on the Play Store found a group of apps that seemed to violate Google’s policies related to marijuana, child sexual abuse and harassment. The list includes several well-known and immensely popular apps, with some, such as Twitter and Facebook, having billions of downloads on the Play Store.
“We don’t allow apps that facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality,” Google’s Developer Policy Center states.
A DCNF reporter was able to access the “Leafly” app, which claims over 1 million downloads, and finds several dispensaries willing to sell various strains of marijuana, without needing an account or age verification beyond simply stating that they were older than 21. A DCNF reporter was able to find offerings from the medical marijuana dispensary Capital City Care, including the ability to compare prices, view descriptions of various products and add items to a bag on Leafly’s website, where the sale could be completed.
“Weedmaps: Find Weed & Delivery,” which claims more than 5 million downloads, operates similarly to Leafly. It was found as one of the top results by a DCNF reporter simply by searching “marijuana” on the Google Play Store.
Neither Leafly nor Weedmaps responded to an emailed request for comment by the DCNF.
“We prohibit the use of apps to endanger children. This includes but is not limited to use of apps to promote predatory behavior towards children, such as: inappropriate interaction targeted at a child, child grooming, sexualization of a minor, sextortion, trafficking of a child,” claims Google’s Developer Policy Center.
Facebook accounted for 20.3 million, or about 95%, of all reports of online child sexual abuse material in 2020 to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Wired reported in December 2021.
WhatsApp bans 300,000 accounts per month for their suspected connections to child sexual abuse material, according to Wired.
Twitter determined internally this spring that child sexual abuse was running rampant and that no meaningful attempts at moderation were being made, according to The Verge. Twitter has since disbanded the health team responsible for investigating these issues, according to The Verge.
The messaging apps Discord, Kik and Telegram, have all been connected to criminal cases involving child sexual abuse ranging from the sharing of child pornography by organized groups of abusers to the use of these apps to groom children for real-life assaults. One child had been used as a sex slave for more than a year before he was found by police in a “filthy trailer” in St. Petersburg, Florida, after predators used Discord to lure two children from Louisiana, Tampa Bay local news station WTSP reported.
“Telegram has a professional ongoing relationship with Google as they respect our moderation efforts. These efforts are in-line with industry standards and are always improving,” Telegram said in a statement to the DCNF. “Telegram’s moderators use a combination of proactive moderation in public parts of our app in addition to accepting user reports. Child abuse reports are typically handled within 2 hours of being reported and such content is routinely taken down.”
Telegram’s Stop Child Abuse channel claims that 36,658 accounts or groups relating to child abuse were banned in August 2022.
Discord and Kik did not respond to an emailed request for comment by the DCNF.
“We don’t allow apps that contain or facilitate threats, harassment, or bullying,” Google’s Developer Policy Center states.
One-quarter of women on Twitter receive threats of sexual violence, and 16% were subject to the posting of personal details, according to a survey by Amnesty International in 2017.
Instagram, and then-parent Facebook, intentionally played down the impact its service had on the mental health of young girls, according to The Wall Street Journal. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told the WSJ that he did not believe the social media giant’s efforts to reduce social pressures and bullying on the platform would be effective.
Twitter’s communications team did not respond to a direct message on Twitter from the DCNF requesting comment. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp parent Meta did not respond to an email request for comment from the DCNF.
“We don’t allow apps that contain or promote sexual content or profanity, including pornography, or any content or services intended to be sexually gratifying,” states Google’s Developer Policy Center. Twitter permits both sexual content and the advertisement of paid pornographic material on other sites, according to The Verge.
Truth Social referred the DCNF to a statement, where it accused Google of allowing apps that “rampantly” violated Google’s policy on sexual content.
Google did not reply to emailed requests for comment from the DCNF.
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