Google pulls Hong Kong protest game for violating rules against ‘capitalizing on sensitive events’

Birdseye

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
13,062
Google has removed a pro-Hong Kong protestor game called The Revolution of Our Times from the Play Store, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. It marks the latest Hong Kong-related app to be pulled after Apple removed a crowdsourced mapping app used by protestors and Quartz’s news app.

While the game has been removed, a cached version of the Play Store page is still available on Google search (at least for now). As an actual game, there doesn’t seem to be too much here beyond a basic text-based Choose Your Own Adventure-style narrative that tells the story of a protestor.

In a statement released to The Wall Street Journal, a Google spokesman explained that the app was removed due to a Play Store policy that bans “capitalizing on sensitive events such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game.” The game, while free, did offer in-app purchases, ranging in cost from $0.99 to $14.99, according to the defunct Play Store page. Before being deleted, the app had been downloaded over 1,000 times, according to Google’s Play Store counter.

Unlike Apple’s recent App Store bans of HKmap.live (a crowdsourced mapping app that has been used by protestors during the ongoing protests in the city) and Quartz’s news app, Google’s takedown feels more in line with regular app store enforcement, although the rule leaves plenty of room for interpretation. For example, who decides what counts as “capitalizing on sensitive events”?
 

KoolAid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,436
As the article says, this is pretty much normal app store enforcement, even if it's kinda fucked up.
 

Phonzo

Member
Oct 26, 2017
2,616
I guess i will see alot of people walking around with no smartphones. Let the rise of dumbphones begin.
 

KojiKnight

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,567
I can sort of see what Google is going for with this rule... but I can't help but feel like at the very best case scenario the optics look awful, and more likely that they are totally Acti-Blizzarding this.

So, according to Google, if the app were reuploaded without microtransactions, it would be allowed?
This is my read, and I'd love if the app creator tested this if only so we could see if Google is being honest, or just using their existing rules to try and censor without having to come right out and say it.
 

Eumi

Member
Nov 3, 2017
3,434
This is a legitimately fair policy.

One that I’m sure will be enforced fairly an isn’t at all being used to justify bowing to the whims of an oppressive regime for personal profit and gain.

Because why would Google so that? No, they couldn’t, they’d never.
 

collige

Member
Oct 31, 2017
5,608
That's definitely violating their rule, but I'm not really sure why that's a rule in the first place.
 

AndrewDean84

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,205
Fontana, California
Makes sense to me, especially if it’s right there in the rules.

This same rule would prevent a crash simulator of reinacting the world trade centers being crashed into on 9/11, just shortly after.

I know they’re not 1:1, but the rule applies to both.
 

CruzerBass

Member
Aug 3, 2018
130
Sounds reasonable to me. People making money through in app purchases off an event like this is pretty disgusting
 

Burt

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,106
What's Google's stake in China like? AFAIK, the search engine and Google services are already banned over there. Is Android a big factor? I'm not sure of what the domestic phone market is like in China these days.
 

Chairmanchuck

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,649
China
What's Google's stake in China like? AFAIK, the search engine and Google services are already banned over there. Is Android a big factor? I'm not sure of what the domestic phone market is like in China these days.

Android phones are around 80% of the market share, 20% iOS.
 

eathdemon

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,770
this seems to be prity fair nforcement tbh. look what china did was bad, but lets stop calling normal enforcement of code of conduct bad.
 

LuisGarcia

Banned
Oct 31, 2017
3,478
Yeah I don't really see the issue with this.

Think the people getting annoyed are doing so because they want to rather then actually looking at what happened
 

Nacho

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,858
NYC
i mean... what exactly was the game? It sounds liek it makes sense under the rules and its not necessarily potentially hurting anyone like banning the crowdsourced maps. It's the type of thing where i think context matters, is it making light of the situation or something? but I can understand why it would be blanket enforcement to prevent having to slice a line down what is ok within context and what isnt.
 

Skux

Member
Oct 26, 2017
2,524
No issues with this. It's a straightforward MTX cash grab designed to exploit a current event.
 

Hailinel

Member
Oct 27, 2017
19,335
How many war-based games can you currently pull up on there lol?
There's a difference between a Hong Kong protest game being made for profit (I'm not aware if any proceeds from MTX were to go to a pro-Hong Kong charity, for example), and like, Fire Emblem Heroes.

Do we know that this game wasn't pushed out by an opportunist looking to grift?
 
Oct 30, 2017
101
How many war-based games can you currently pull up on there lol?
The policy mentions recent or on-going conflicts. 2-3 years from now, unless it is still on-going then, this app would likely be fine. Maybe a little longer. Just cannot be current. Not saying I like it, but thats the policy and appears to have been like that for some time now. Really no un-reasonable, this just looks bad in the current climate is all.

Could China be pressuring them? Sure. Is the game still against policy? Yup.
 

muteKi

Member
Oct 22, 2018
11,153
a sunken pirate ship
This is my read, and I'd love if the app creator tested this if only so we could see if Google is being honest, or just using their existing rules to try and censor without having to come right out and say it.
Yeah, I agree. The intersection of capitalism and art is always going to be kinda ugly, and I don't even necessarily begrudge Google this decision as a result, but I think it would be bad if the app weren't put back or not allowed to exist without the microtransactions.
 

Cyclonesweep

Member
Oct 29, 2017
2,838
Its all about them profiting off of this. It's a rule that Google enforces blanketly so imo nothing to see here
 

Nome

Designer
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
2,706
NYC
The policy mentions recent or on-going conflicts. 2-3 years from now, unless it is still on-going then, this app would likely be fine. Maybe a little longer. Just cannot be current. Not saying I like it, but thats the policy and appears to have been like that for some time now. Really no un-reasonable, this just looks bad in the current climate is all.

Could China be pressuring them? Sure. Is the game still against policy? Yup.
How would China pressure Google exactly? Google doesn’t operate in China.