Google has banned the Infowars app from the Play Store after it was used to spread misinformation about the novel coronavirus behind the ongoing pandemic. Attempts to access the app’s URL now returns an error message stating that the product is no longer available. It took Google more than a year longer than Apple to boot the app from its mobile platform.
Misinformation related to the virus, the disease it causes, and alleged treatments for it has spread widely across a variety of social media platforms, as well as messaging apps like WhatsApp. Companies have taken steps to address this information, some of which can prove deadly. Facebook, for its part, has introduced a Coronavirus Information Center; Apple recently launched a COVID-19 screening website, as well.
Google is tackling misinformation on its own platform, and that includes the banning of the Infowars Android app. A video allegedly published through the app made claims that natural remedies could be used as a treatment for COVID-19 and that efforts to curb the virus’s spread, including quarantine, aren’t effective.
Infowars is the platform from known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones whose various bizarre and otherwise ill-advised claims have been heavily criticized over the years. Among other things, the Android app was used to give users access to The Alex Jones Show broadcasts, articles, and videos; it was also used to sell protein powders, supplements, and other things.
Google confirmed the removal to WIRED, explaining that it removes apps that violate its policies, including ones about distributing fake news and similar information. This removal marks another crackdown on Infowars; Android users who want to continue using the app will be forced to sideload it, which is unsafe and something many are unfamiliar with.