Truth Social, the Twitter-esque social media platform launched by former President Donald Trump, is being barred from the Google Play store over content moderation concerns.
Google Play is the default place to find apps on Android phones. Exclusion from the Google Play store doesn’t mean people are prohibited from downloading and installing an app on Android devices, but it does make doing so more difficult. And Truth Social does not currently offer a version of the app that can be downloaded and installed from its website or elsewhere. So, anyone who wants to use Truth Social on an Android phone has to do so via web browser rather than through a dedicated app.
“On Aug. 19, we notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies in their current app submission and reiterated that having effective systems for moderating user-generated content is a condition of our terms of service for any app to go live on Google Play,” a Google spokesperson told Axios, which reports that Google is concerned with Truth Social not effectively moderating threats of violence.
The situation echoes concerns over the right-leaning social media platform Parler, which was banned from app stores (though only temporarily from Apple’s) for alleged indifference to posts from January 6 rioters. Many conservatives accused the tech companies of liberal bias and potentially illegal conduct.
There are two important things to keep in mind when it comes to the Truth Social and Google Play situation.
Number one is that the situation looks likely to resolve itself soon enough. Google said it has raised its concerns with Truth Social, and the two companies are working to resolve the issue. Trump Media & Technology Group said in a statement: “It is our belief that all Americans should have access to Truth Social no matter what devices they use. We look forward to Google approving Truth Social at their earliest convenience.”
Also important to keep in mind: The impossible situation app stores find themselves in.
Google and Apple have both been harassed by regulators and politicians over app store policies, with some suggesting that tightly controlling the app store could be an antitrust violation or grounds for losing Section 230 protections.
Meanwhile, these companies are also hammered for not doing enough to stop dangerous, misleading, or violent content, including content on apps that appear in app stores. Sometimes, the government even tries to ban certain apps from being available through app stores. And increasingly, intermediaries—like tech companies and payment processors—face lawsuits for not stopping potentially harmful content.
In effect, tightly controlling its app store may get Google in legal and political trouble. But not tightly controlling its app store may also get Google in legal and political trouble.
This sort of catch-22 has become all too common for tech companies, which face demands to both stop more speech and allow all speech.
“Is ‘Woke’ just PC with faster internet?” asks Phoebe Maltz Bovy. The impetus for this question: her discovery of an early ’90s book titled The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook. In a post on Freddie DeBoer’s blog, Maltz Bovy looks at what’s different between today’s version of “political correctness” and that from 30 years back, and what’s the same. “But the point of the book feels about as 2022 as it could. There are the defenses of free speech, which, yes, but more powerful, and more relevant, is the critique of PC’s fixation on language over substance, and indeed in obscuring the absence of substantive change.”
A city in Vermont has repealed two ordinances against prostitution. The Montpelier ordinances state that “no female person shall be a prostitute” and “no person shall keep a house of prostitution.”
City Manager Bill Fraser said the ordinances hadn’t been used in a long time. And prostitution will still be criminalized in Montpelier under Vermont state law.
But despite minimal practical impact, the repeal could be a sign of winds shifting.
“Montpelier has become the second city in Vermont to repeal its antiquated prostitution ordinance in the past year,” notes the group Decriminalize Sex Work. “Last summer, the Burlington City Council voted to repeal that city’s prostitution ordinance and voters subsequently chose to strike discriminatory and archaic language on sex work from the city charter.”
More on the debate over Montpelier’s ordinances here and here.
DOJ responds to Trump. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has responded to former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to oversee the handling of documents gotten from Mar-a-Lago. You can read the full filing here; CNN offers highlights here.
• Read Reason‘s Matt Welch on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev.
• Young people are interested in the news—but not very happy with it.
• France is using drones to spy on and tax unauthorized swimming pools.
• “California lawmakers are on the verge of passing a bill that would significantly scale back solitary confinement in prisons, jails and private immigration detention centers,” reports Fox News. The measure—AB 2632—would limit solitary confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days and no more than 45 cumulative days in a 180-day time frame.
• A pair of Virginia lawsuits seeking to get the books Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury removed from the shelves of libraries and private booksellers has been dismissed.
• New York is hobbling its legal cannabis market with excessive taxes and regulations.
• A new book showcases six decades’ worth of Maurice Sendak’s work.
• Women are the fastest-growing incarcerated group in Texas, reports Scalawag magazine. “In Texas, women’s incarceration rates have increased dramatically over the past few decades—over 1000 percent since 1980.”