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Google restores Element’s chat app on Play Store

Google had taken down the popular federated chat app for allegedly hosting abusive content.

Element’s chat app returns to Google Play Store
Element’s chat app returns to Google Play Store (Hindustan Times)

Google has restored Element’s Android chat application on the Play Store. The app was briefly removed the app store for allegedly hosting abusive content.

The decision to take down Element’s chat app had created a bit of controversy. As Gizmodo points out, Element is a client for the federated chat protocol Matrix, and it has only control on its own servers.

According to Element, Google had taken down the app without issuing a warning or notification to the developers. The company said it had received a generic update from Google that asked it to “make the necessary changes to [our] app” and “upload a new app using a new package name and a new app name”.

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On late Saturday, Elements said Google had apologised for the incident.

“At 2020-01-30 23:17 UTC we received a call from a VP at Google who apologised for the bad communication from Google and explained the situation, which related to some extremely abusive content which was accessible on the default matrix.org homeserver. Our Trust and Safety team had already identified and acted on this content to enforce the server's terms of use, and so we've explained how Element and Matrix works, established a channel for communication over any future moderation concerns, and expect the app to be restored shortly,” the company said in a blog post.

Google’s move to take down and then restore Element’s chat app comes as the tech giants are cracking down on apps that promote hate speech or abusive content. Just recently, Apple and Google pulled Parler from their app stores following the US Capitol riot.

According to a report in August last year, Google’s crackdown on such apps could lead to the removal of federated apps (groups of interconnected servers used for web publishing) from the app store, said an Engadget report.

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