Google has an annoying habit of pulling the rug out from under Android app developers. It's a story as old as Android—someone at Google decides an app violates some policy or another, and the developer has to scramble to figure out how to comply with the esoteric app guidelines. The latest victim is Podcast Addict, an app that has been in the Play Store for nearly a decade. Google recently decided to block most Admob ads in the app because people can download (*gasp*) adult-themed podcasts. Won't someone please think of the children?
Several weeks ago, Google flagged Podcast Addict for hosting explicit content and blocked almost all of its Admob display ads. According to the developer, Podcast Addict was self-rated as "Teen" in the Play Store because of the wide range of podcasts available listed under "health and sexuality." That wasn't enough for Google, apparently. The app lost 99.9% of its ad impressions and revenue; the remaining tenth of a percent comes from ads rated for mature content.
Obviously, Podcast Addict isn't producing any adult-themed podcasts. It only lets users access what exists out there on the internet, not unlike Google's own Chrome browser or numerous other podcast apps that still have Google ads. We've seen similarly hypocritical moves from Google's content-rating drones on numerous occasions. Just a few days ago, Google flagged Fleksy for mature content because it has a middle finger emoji (so does Gboard). This isn't a new problem, either. Reddit clients had to start hiding NSFW subreddits years ago to avoid bans. Perhaps Podcast Addict will be able to get back into Google's good graces by hiding adult content behind a settings toggle, but Google doesn't exactly offer consistent guidance to developers. It's kind of a shot in the dark.
Google admits no violation
Google contacted the developer about an hour after our story went live to confirm there was no prohibited content in Podcast Addict. The ads that support the development of the app should be working again soon. While we cannot confirm Android Police spurred Google to action, let's just go with that. Yay us.
It's happened again
Google's automated system checks strike again. A few months after the silly removal of ads from Podcast Addict because of the existence of adult podcasts, the app has lost ads again for another nonsensical reason. This time, it's the mere concept of podcasts that's eluding the Play Store's bots, which are citing "Copyrighted material: Unauthorized Filesharing" as the reason for the ads' removal.
Any of the hundreds of podcast players on Android, be it Podcast Addict, Google's own Podcasts, or Pocket Casts, don't host any content. They just index public RSS feeds and aggregate it in an easy way for you and me to browse and enjoy. There's no 'filesharing' and certainly no 'copyrighted material' issue there.
With Google's review processes running slower than usual, this issue could go remain unsolved for a long time, hitting the developer's income hard at a time when they need it more than ever.
Guilemane wrote back to tell us that Google's review concluded that his app did not violate policy. Fortunately for him this time around, he only had to wait literally one day for judgment instead of 3 months.
- Xavier Guillemane