Google may plan to pull Fediverse apps, prompting outcry from users

Brittany A. Roston - Aug 30, 2020, 6:15am CDT
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Google may plan to pull Fediverse apps, prompting outcry from users

Google may be planning to pull Fediverse apps from the Google Play Store over concerns about hate speech, a new report claims. These apps are designed to connect users with federated servers in a way similar to forum apps designed to connect users to different forums. It seems these apps may have been targeted because they make it possible to access servers that host hate speech, prompting criticism from users.

The Fediverse is essentially a loosely connected ‘family’ of servers that are independently hosted, but with the potential for communicating with each other. A huge variety of content can be found in the Fediverse, which some have turned to as an alternative to traditional social networks. That content can include hate speech.

According to VPN company Private Internet Access, Google may be planning to pull apps that connect users to Fediverse servers over the fact that some contain hate speech — a move that many have criticized as an overreach given that the apps themselves do not host nor control the problematic content. Comparisons to web browsers and other apps that connect users to third-party content are inevitable.

A user can, for example, download a web browser like Google Chrome and use that to access websites, forums, and other online destinations that harbor hate speech. It’s up to the individual platforms to moderate the content on their servers; app developers have no control over this content.

Mastodon developer Eugen highlighted an apparent warning the app ‘Subway Tooter’ received from Google over the problematic content that can be found in the wider Fediverse, something the developer has no control over. Separately, Dr. Freemo posted a screencap of a warning message delivered over the app Fedilab, stating that it was in violation of a Play Store policy about user-generated content.

As of Sunday, the Fedilab app was still available to download in the Google Play Store, as were a number of other Fediverse apps. It is unclear whether Google has removed any of these apps from its app store and whether it is, indeed, planning to pull them over user-generated content.


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