If you’ve recently tried searching “Coronavirus” on Google Play and ended with no results, understand that this is by design. Google has reportedly disabled all searches for “Coronavirus” Android apps.
Prior to this, any search for apps with the words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” on Google Play will end with no results showing up. The search limitation also extends to similar search terms with the words “tracker” or “map” at the back.
Oddly enough, searching for “COVID19” without the hyphen successfully yields search results and, as pointed out by 9to5Google, includes the official app for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Along with other apps related to the coronavirus.
At the time of writing, Google hasn’t released any official statement explaining its actions. Online speculation suggests that Google may be trying to reduce the number of apps trying to manipulate Google Play’s SEO. Thus limiting the amount of potential misinformation. It’s also possible that this disabling could be due to a bug in the app or a counter-measure of sorts to prevent Google Play from being flooded with an absurd level of traffic.
Another theory is that Google could be trying to manually filter through the search result of numerous Coronavirus-related app. In order to ensure that verified and reputable apps, such as the CDC app, gets first listing.
Whatever the case, the chances of Google’s actions being malicious or swayed by some unseen hand is not likely at this point. Once again, the search engine is not censoring keywords or deleting swathes of messages related to the disease, much like WeChat did with its own platform.