Google has reportedly booted the popular fan-created "Reddit is Fun" Android application from its Google Play store for violating its terms and conditions, according to Andrew Shu, the app's creator.
Shu, an independent software developer, wrote on Reddit and on Google Plus that he received two emails from the Google Play store informing him that his Android app has been pulled from the marketplace for failing to comply with Google Play Developer Content Policies, namely, a provision disallowing "content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material."
In his Reddit post, Shu conceded that the app, which lets users browse Reddit's homepage and "subreddit" pages, does in fact include NSFW content.
But as ZDNet points out, Reddit is a social news site that does not host content itself, but rather provides user-curated links, leading some to wonder if Google is setting a precedent for a censorship code akin to the one Apple uses in its iTunes store.
"There is no single, agreed-upon definition of pornography or obscenity. Nor is Google Play defining these terms," Violet Blue wrote on ZDNet. "Besides the fact that it’s an awful and short-sighted policy that dooms Google Play to a lifetime of uneven enforcement ... The provision, and the way it has been acted upon, allows Google Play to effectively pull an iTunes."
When the iTunes App Store launched in 2008, Steve Jobs said that the company would enforce strict guidelines prohibiting pornography and other sexually explicit content.
In 2010, Apple pulled thousands of apps from its store after instituting developer guidelines barring apps that include "overtly sexual content." This included everything from women in bathing suits to sexual innuendos, according to an employee who spoke to Wired.
Now, Android users are worried that Google may be following Apple's "moral policing," example as Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor famously ranted when the bands' app was removed from iTunes.
If Google is in fact moving in that direction, thousands of Android developers could see their apps pulled, even though Google has stated that some applications with explicit content could be labeled as "high maturity," according to Android Police.
But even if the Reddit app were reinstated under these guidelines, Google's ruling still has consequences for the future of Android app development.
Of course, no matter how the developer goes about solving this problem, the fact remains that it got banned, which is a big deal. Reddit has always been one of those sites that walks the fine line between permissible and illegal. The recent controversy over child pornography (which Reddit finally banned) is evidence of this. If an app can get banned for providing the ability to find NSFW content, however, Google has a few of its own apps that should see the business end of a banhammer.
In the meantime, fans can still download the "Reddit Is Fun" app at github.
Flickr photo by Eva Blue