Should Google be making money from this racist Android app? UPDATED

Android, Android apps, Google, Tech Digest news

Google has informed us that the offensive app has now been flagged for investigation, and issued this statement:

“We remove applications that violate our policies, such as apps that are illegal or that promote hate speech. We don’t comment on individual applications – however, you can check out our policies for more information.”

We’re still awaiting a response from developers Viper Gaming.

The original story follows.
We’ve covered some bad apps over the years, usually because they’re either comically awful or attempting to rip you off. Sometimes they’re both. But it’s not often we pick up on an app just because it makes us so angry.

But that’s what “Racist Jokes” on the Google Play store has inspired us to do, made all the worse by the fact that Google seem to be making money from it.

As spotted by app expert (and former Tech Digest writer) Stuart Dredge, it’s full of the sort of naff, unfunny and (most importantly) massively offensive jokes that should be left in the notebooks of “naive” (to put it euphemistically) comedians of the 1970s.

Now, there’s much to recommend about the Google Play store being open to all sorts of submissions, allowing for a wide range of apps that would never make their way onto Apple’s App Store. Sometime that means they’re just a bit rubbish, down to poor quality control, but sometimes it means that you can get hold of great Android apps that give you far more control over how your phone works than you ever could on iOS, down to that very same open nature.

But when horrible stuff like this slips through the cracks, it makes us wish Google paid a bit more attention to what’s going up, and what’s putting cash in their pockets.

Racist Jokes costs 0.63p, and with Google taking a 30% cut of its estimated 1,000 to 5,000 current sales tally, the company are actually making money out of bigotry.

The argument that, by writing this post, we’re giving the app some sort of profile, is somewhat valid, but if such horrible content is allowed to go onto the Play store unchecked, how else will it ever be policed? A quick search on the store shows there are at least two similar apps already on the Google Play store, and no obvious parallel on Apple’s App Store.

While the Cupertino company’s App Store approval process can sometimes seem draconian, at least it sets standards that prevents this sort of rubbish going up.

The Racist Jokes app has so far only had a few thousand downloads, and you could argue that the Play store polices itself through the user submitted ratings.

Racist Jokes currently has a score of 3.5 out of 5. It doesn’t take a master mathematician to figure out that’s an above average score.

So what if an easily influenced youngster comes across this relatively high scoring app looking for what’s advertised as an opportunity to “get in on the comedy”? There’s freedom of speech to consider, but also the potential this app has to cause upset and inspire hatred.

We believe it shouldn’t be allowed. In the UK, the app may even fall foul of Racist and Religious crime laws according to CPS guidance.

We’ve contacted the developers Viper Gaming for comment, and have contacted Google too. We’ll update this post once we get a response.

Gerald Lynch
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