In a move to curb sexual content from Play Store, Google will be banning all apps related to “compensated sexual relationships” – or specifically, those that are considered “sugar dating” apps. For the uninitiated, the term refers to apps that facilitate relationships of a certain nature, usually between an older person and a younger individual.
Google changed a bunch of its policies recently, and this particular ban was first sighted by Android Police in the company’s updated inappropriate content policy. It was discovered that apps under the category had surprisingly achieved millions of downloads, along with high ratings from users (though the reviews look manipulated). Prior to this, the app store have been enforcing a rule that prohibited “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation”, but this revised policy now specifically brings sugar dating apps into its crosshairs and will likely boot out these type of apps.
If you’re not familiar, Malaysia has its own infamous sugar dating app called Sugarbook. According to Chan Eu Boon, the dating site’s founder, its members comprise of “extremely influential people in power” as well as local celebrities. It’s courted some controversies with its head-turning suggestive billboards and was recently blocked by the MCMC for improper use of network facilities or services after calls for its ban by politicians, calling the app “immoral.” Though they did provide ways to bypass the ban, it’s unlikely that the app will survive being kicked out of the app store, especially with its website being a vestige of the company’s foothold in Malaysia’s sugar dating scene.
Android Police did point out that Apple also features a similar policy in its app store, and sure enough, Sugarbook is only available on the Google Play Store. The new policy will be fully implemented on Play Store on 1 September 2021, and it will be interesting to see how some of the bigger players will try and circumvent this ban.
Google is also introducing a new policy whereby it will delete any developer accounts that have remained inactive for more than a year on Play Store. While it will make exceptions for accounts that has apps with over a thousand installs or recent in-app purchases, developers must upload an app or sign into the Google Play Console over the course of 12 months in order to avoid deletion. In addition, it is also revising its spam and advertising policies, which is slated to go into effect on 29 September and 4 October respectively.