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Google is kicking ‘sugar dating’ apps out of the Play Store

Google is kicking ‘sugar dating’ apps out of the Play Store


A new policy prohibits apps focused on ‘compensated sexual relationships’ as of September 1st

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Android bot surrounded by padlocks
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

“Sugar dating” apps will not be allowed on the Android Play Store from September 1st, Google has announced as part of a series of policy changes for the platform. The change, which was first reported by Android Police, specifically prohibits apps relating to “compensated sexual relationships.” Other changes coming to the platform include a new crackdown on inactive developer accounts, Google says.

Traditionally, sugar dating relationships involve older, wealthier individuals dating and showering younger partners with gifts. As Android Police notes, there’s no shortage of apps on the Play Store designed around setting up “sugar daddy” relationships. None of them explicitly say that older men are expected to compensate younger women for their affection, but many emphasize the wealth of the men on their services.

Inactive developer accounts also face removal

Google’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.” But the updated wording expands this definition to explicitly include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”

Google’s announcement doesn’t explicitly say why the apps are being banned now. But it comes amidst a crackdown on online sex work by platforms following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in the US in 2018, which removes Section 230 protections for content that “promotes or facilitates prostitution.” A representative from Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Beyond the dating app rule changes, the search giant is also introducing a new policy which will see it delete developer accounts if they’ve remained inactive for a year. Google says it will make exceptions for accounts behind apps with over a thousand installs or with recent in-app purchases, but if a developer hasn’t uploaded an app or signed into the Google Play Console over the course of 12 months, their account is at risk of deletion. In a video outlining the change, Google says it will notify developers of an impending deletion 60, 30, and 7 days before it takes place.

The policy updates also offer more information on Google’s previously announced changes regarding Play Store spam and opting-out of the use of advertising IDs. It’s updating its store listings and promotion policy on September 29 to ban “spam text and graphics in app titles, icons and developer names” and its ads policy is being updated to reflect the advertising ID changes on October 4th.