Google removes Gab app for violating hate speech policy

Gab, the social network that has become popular among members of the alt-right, was removed from the Google Play Store this week for violating Google’s hate speech policy.

The company announced the removal of its app in a tweet on Thursday, shortly after announcing it had raised $1 million in a crowdfunding campaign. The tweet also included a screenshot of an email from Google, which said that the Gab app was “suspended and removed” from the Google Play Store for violating its hate speech policy.

Gab describes itself as “an ad-free social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online.” The site, which launched last year, has attracted many far-right users who have been banned on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Although the social network claims to be politically neutral, its green frog logo bears a clear resemblance to Pepe the Frog, a popular mascot of the alt-right; and its CEO, Andrew Torba, is a supporter of President Donald Trump who was removed from a Y Combinator alumni network last year for violating its harassment policy.

As VentureBeat notes, Gab’s crowdfunding campaign appears to have gained momentum following this week’s violence in Charlottesville, which prompted several web services to sever ties with hate groups, as well as a sexist memo from a Google engineer that leaked earlier this month. Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, recently began posting screenshots of articles to Gab after various web hosting and domain services cut the site off.

In a statement, Google said that social networking apps on the Play Store “need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people” and that this rule is “clearly stated” in its developer policies. It added that developers can appeal their app’s suspension if they address the issue.

Torba has said previously that Gab is “not going to police what is hate speech and what isn’t,” which itself sounds like a violation of Google’s policies. Google also has a specific hate speech policy that forbids any apps “that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Google has moved offensive apps in the past, including one that made a game of the Holocaust. Gab’s app has never been approved for placement on Apple’s App Store.

Following the removal, Gab tweeted a link that it says would allow Android users to download its app without going through the Play Store.

Update August 18th, 2:21PM ET: This story has been updated with comment from Google.

Comments

Removing this kind of stuff from app stores, dropping websites like the daily stormer, etc, won’t solve the problem of why there are so many people out there giving so much traffic and money to these groups. It will only embolden them and their perceived victim-hood and make things even worse.

Celebrating their removal, their bannings, etc, may give people a cathartic outlet after last week (which is fair enough), but unless an actual effort is made to solve the problems leading people towards these groups all it will really do in the end is add fuel to the fire.

The main problem is that people are ass holes, and that they have zero inclination to change.

It won’t, but from the business side, it disassociates the tech companies and keeps investors and advertisers happy as they’re not being linked to offensive content.

This isn’t just about ethics and morals, it’s about keeping the money rolling in

I think it does help though, especially in curtailing the ideas from gaining further traction. The way this stuff snowballs is if the very few twisted people who think this way have easier avenues of organization. It will also take the few people who are on the fence about these ideas and give it a degree of legitimacy.

I think taking this stuff down is a very important step. But I agree there needs to be a further conversation to solve the issue completely.

Cutting off cash flow to them is a very good way to mitigate the risk these guys poses to society. It’s not going to eliminate them but I don’t think anything can.

It may restrict their reach, though, and make recruiting a bit more difficult.

Looks like the first few steps on the slippery slope of censorship have been taken.

Looks like someone never read either most ToS or the definition of free speach before speaking. Nobody is thought-censoring for now, but disgusting thoughts better be kept out of (other’s) respectable businesses.

They should ask Trump about that net neutrality thing.

Your point has merit and this should be scrutinized but it seems that these particular cases are very clear cut. The propaganda these sort of sites are spreading is hate speech and is often considered illegal and has been for a long time. Good to see that the internet is finally starting to grow up and take responsibility here.

Hate speech is protected. Only "offensive" speech NEEDS protection. Thus 1st A. to Bill of Rights. The left needs to remember that when their ox is eventually the one that gets gored and they wonder what the hell happened to their "rights."
But a company is not a public utility and can ban whatever it wants. I don’t trust the gatekeepers and have little to do with them or their websites.

the "left" has no majority power, just because we want people to be respected doesn’t mean we’re taking away your rights

Google can censor all they want. Let the market decide.

No they haven’t. If the government were telling google to pull apps, that would be censorship.

just because we want you to respect others doesn’t mean we’re taking away your rights

I think the key here is whether the app itself was advocating hateful views or just the users of the social network. If it was just the users, then shouldn’t Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube also be banned? Users of those services have used the platforms to spread hateful messages and beliefs as well. If the app itself was advocating hateful views, the ban is understandable and well within Google’s right. But the water gets significantly murkier if they banned the app because of what users were using it for. That’s a slippery slope.

Good god, Youtube should have been banned a decade ago if we’re talking about hateful content, both videos and user comments alike.

As if I need any more excuses to strip GAPPS off my phone and use F-Droid.

But google must use its infrastructure to spread my hate. They must.

I also rung my neighbours doorbell and gave him some leaflets – he should jump in his car and go drop them in people’s mailboxes right away. Because I have rights.

Otherwise you’re being censored! /s

Ok, this is concerning. Google is going down the road of getting rid of companies (banning their app will tangibly harm Gab immensely) that don’t moderate according to Google’s standards, and that’s terrifying frankly. Firing an engineer on the wrong side of the culture wars only really effs over the engineer, or dropping hosting for a Neo-Nazi website just forces them to another host, but Google has an enormous part of the smartphone market and banning apps for daring to facilitate disagreeable discussion is moving beyond the pale.

Gab’s social media presence and its CEO have long been lambasting Google (and Apple, and Facebook as well). I first heard of Gab because of it’s tweets calling for Google to be broken up. I think their anti-Google stance probably contributed to them getting ousted from the Google Play Store, along with the hate speech on their app. I guess you could say that’s problematic but really, I think Google should be able to choose what software they have on their namesake store, and it’s probably not a great idea to constantly needle the company whose store is carrying your product. Also, people can always sideload the app if they want it, right?

Obviously Google is within their legal rights to pick and choose whatever apps they want on their app store, it’s just this one is I think both intellectually and pragmatically problematic whereas their former moves against non-progressive voices have really only risen to the point of being intellectually problematic.

To their credit, there is always side-loading though, which is the reason I initially started using Android any way.

Like I mentioned, it kind of seemed inevitable based on the Gab CEO’s comments about Google before this. If i own a brick and mortar store and the creator of one of the (many) products i carry at my store is constantly talking about how my store should close and how terrible it is, that guy needs to realize it’s likely i might eventually say "hey i’m not selling your product anymore dude"

Ugh…when are these people so terribly upset for these Nazis going to understand that no one’s free speech is being trampled on. NO ONE is obliged to give ANYONE a platform for hate speech or any speech whatsoever. Google is exercising its right to boot anyone off of their platform for violating their policies.

Actually, you’re wrong.

The postal system is required to send your letter regardless of content. The phone company is required to let you speak to your contact regardless of what you say. #NetNeutrality prevents carriers from using financial incentives to decide who gets heard. And all these restrictions are imposed by the government in order to protect #FreeSpeech.

So #Google is absolutely trifling with antitrust issues here, especially after their record breaking EU fine. Their only defense is the ability to #Sideload.

P.S. I find it funny you call them #Nazis when perhaps the doctrine which comes closest to making hate speech illegal exist because someone called a marshal "a damned fascist". So perhaps you should rethink that, or at least apologize.

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