Android Market Deletes Nazi Apps

A recent application featuring Nazi themes was jack-booted off the Android Market, proving that, while still being much more open than Apple's AppStore, there is a limit to what can be published and promoted.

The controversy began when noted blogger and analyst Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group tweeted about doing a search in the Android Market on the word "Jewish." It returned a number of results including, unexpectedly, some apps that were Hitler- and Nazi-oriented. The irony wasn't lost on Gartenberg, who said on his Twitter feed, "I was more disturbed at how it came up in search results. Clearly designed to offend."

Eventually, the offending apps were removed. This appears to be in accordance with the "Android Market Content Policy for Developers," which prohibits certain types of content, including:

  • Illegal content
  • Invasions of personal privacy
  • Promotions of hate or incitement of violence
  • Any material not suitable for persons under 18
  • Pornography, obscenity, nudity or sexual activity

Given the lack of oversight by Google, however, there's no guarantee that such material won't make it into the market. The "Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement" explicitly states that "Google does not intend, and does not undertake, to monitor the Products or their content." In other words, developers or users need to bring the potentially offending app to Google's attention.

By contrast, Apple's AppStore is tightly controlled -- much too tightly, according to critics. A common complaint among developers is that Apple rejects or removes apps seemingly at random, which can waste many hours of development and the financial resources that go with it.

The Android Market is the polar opposite -- anyone can upload and attempt to give away or sell anything they can build. The downside, according to other critics, is apps that are more unstable, insecure, or as in the Nazi case, purely offensive.

Google's Tim Bray, who frequently writes on Android-related topics, said on his blog the situation is evidence that Google's system works. "I'd offer this case as evidence in favor of the current setup: Anyone can publish anything, but there's a smooth well-oiled process for ripping the weeds out of the garden, once they get noticed."

Andrew Kameka, who blogs at Androinica, an independent site that covers Android, wasn't as positive: "While he's right to state the model of the Market does work, the execution of it definitely does not. I have personally flagged apps that have remained in the Market, and a search of the market is likely to reveal apps or themes that violate the market's terms of service or trademarks. There is a process to have these apps removed, but I wouldn't clarify it as 'well-oiled.'"

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.