In another move to protect itself from potential liability and financial punishments, Alphabet’s Google recently changed its content policy on its app store, banning apps on that facilitate the sale of marijuana or related products.
The move was necessary because the laws concerning marijuana use and sale vary considerably among states and on the federal level. This approach allows app marketplace platforms to stay out of the legal fray.
Until there is more clarity and continuity in the laws, Google requires platforms in the marijuana industry to move their shopping cart options outside the app to comply with its new policy. In a nutshell, the marijuana delivery apps can remain in the store as long as the actual sale occurs outside Google’s platform.
Google has promised to work with developers to clear up any technical questions and to ensure they experience no customer disruptions. Additionally, it has no plans to outlaw marijuana order and delivery apps completely.
Google announced its content changes on May 29. Existing apps have 30 days to comply.
Google Follows in the Footsteps of Other Platforms
Google’s move isn’t out of step with others, like Apple. Apple banned apps that facilitate the sale of tobacco, marijuana, and other illegal substances. Similarly, marijuana delivery apps can remain on iOS, but the actual ordering cannot occur on Apple’s platform.
Google Content Changes on Loot Boxes
On the same day, Google also cracked down on kids apps and loot boxes, a type of gambling popular with gamers, as well as expanding content language concerning sexual content, fake goods, and hate speech.
With loot boxes, gamers pay fees to receive random selections of in-game items, sometimes including rare or valuable things. Loot boxes are criticized because they are marketed to children. In light of the criticism, the Senate introduced a bill prohibiting the sale of loot boxes to children.
Following the introduction of the bill, Google Play has required games have to disclose the odds of getting each item promoted.
Google Content Changes on Sexual Conduct
Additionally, Google expanded its definition of sexual conduct, including images that include fetishes, sexual aids, and other sex-related illustrations or products that would be inappropriate to the public. To cover examples not clearly outlined in Google’s policy, it added a ban of “lewd and profane” content.
Google Content Changes on Hate Speech
To crack down on hate speech, Google also expanded its list of examples, including:
- compilations of assertions intended to prove that protected group are “inhuman, inferior or worthy of being hated”
- apps that contain theories about a protected group possessing negative characteristics (e.g. malicious, corrupt, evil, etc.) or explicitly or implicitly claims the group is a threat
- content or speech trying to encourage others to believe that people should be hated or discriminated against because they are members of protected groups
As legislators consider changes and the public becomes more aware of problems and challenges with online sales of dangerous or inappropriate items, tech giants are stepping up and acting proactively to contain them.
The steps Google and Apple have taken to control the sale of marijuana, hemp, and other legally-murky products are simply a move to protect their businesses. As other challenges arise, expect platforms to take similar actions.
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