Play Store adds new rules for sexual content, hate speech, and marijuana

Google Play Store
Google Play Store (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has expanded what is prohibited in apps regarding sexual content, hate speech, and tobacco products.
  • Apps are banned from selling marijuana, e-cigs, and counterfeit goods.
  • Loot boxes must provide you with the odds of receiving the items before purchasing.

Google has been hard at work making new policies for the Play Store. It began with changes in policies to specifically protect your children, but Google is also expanding policies on sexual content, hate speech, and adding new restrictions on marijuana, e-cigarettes, and counterfeit goods.

While there were already policies in place against sexual content, it mostly covered depictions of sexual acts or escort services. The changes to the sexual content policy (opens in new tab) now go a step further, including depictions of nudity or content that is lewd or profane.

It does go on to say that, "nudity may be allowed if the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific or artistic, and is not gratuitous."

Similarly, the section on hate speech (opens in new tab) has also been expanded with more specific information including examples of violations.

  • Compilations of assertions intended to prove that a protected group is 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 a member of a protected group.

There have also been some minor tweaks when it comes to gambling and loot boxes. Previously, gambling apps had a restriction on rewarding players with "prizes of cash or other value" which has now been changed to "prizes of cash or other real-world value." It's a small change, but it opens up gambling apps to provide different rewards, as long as it doesn't have a real-world value.

Google is now addressing loot boxes the same way it does other gambling.

The new loot boxes policy requires the odds of receiving items to be clearly disclosed before purchasing. Loot boxes were not previously mentioned as part of the Play Store policies, but due to the growing popularity, it is nice to see Google addressing it.

Google also has some new policies regarding the sale of marijuana (opens in new tab). Regardless of the legality of it where you live, apps will not be allowed for the use of ordering marijuana, assisting in delivery or pick up marijuana, or facilitating in the sale of products containing THC.

Tobacco products are also in Google's crosshairs, as Google's new policy prohibits "apps that facilitate the sale of tobacco (including e-cigarettes) or encourage the irresponsible use of alcohol or tobacco."

Google is even going after real-world intellectual property thieves, with a new section that bans the sale of counterfeit goods in apps. If you come across this happening you can fill out this form to report it.

With Family Link, Google is finally giving parents some much-needed help

Jason England
  • Censorship at it's best
  • Where is Google's list of "protected groups"? I'll bet conservative Christians are not on it.
  • Oh gawd last time I checked Google was a private company and I was under the assumption that they can regulate hoe they feel as if they need to but I guess not.
  • The loot box rule is, imho, a great move - and one that has been been undergoing continuing legislative consideration to help curb predatory practices by developers. As to the banning of apps supporting the sale of specific products, I can understand their banning sale of products which are either illegal or age-restricted in many (or all) parts of the country. Marijuana, e-cigs, and other tobacco products fall under this. Of course so does alcohol, so it does seem a bit pointed that they do not similarly ban apps supporting the same (I would be surprised if grocery stores offering curbside pickup don't offer the ability to include beer, etc, in an order placed through the app). As to counterfeit goods, that's going to be a tough one to manage as companies for whom apps are developed aren't likely to go to Google and say "yep, we plan on selling counterfeits" - the only real way I could see them being comprehensive with that would be to limit publication of apps to those who are authorized resellers, which I don't see happening. And what about the secondhand market? Are they going to shut down the eBay app?
  • Google is still charging full steam ahead attacking free speech. The Supreme Court ruled "hate speech" is legally protected free speech. I fully support giving users the option to toggle filters like they do for "explicit" content, but I don't appreciate Google going whole hog on political censorship (since hate speech definitions completely depend on your political ideology)