Another month, another wrongful removal from the Play Store. Google booted Podcast Addict off the Play Store because it references the novel coronavirus outbreak — or rather, it offers you to listen to podcasts that do, just like any other podcast player out there. For some reason, Podcast Addict has been singled out by Google, with the company asking the developer to prove that his product is endorsed by some government, or remove any references to COVID-19.

Google references section 8.3 of its developer distribution agreement, which it recently updated to make it harder for malicious apps to take advantage of people searching for information on the pandemic. That's a good thing, but taking down an app that merely offers third-party COVID-19 content seems to overshoot that goal — Google would have to remove its own apps like YouTube, Google News, and even feed readers or other news aggregation services shouldn't be allowed on the Play Store if they're not government-sanctioned. Thus, it's safe to say that some automated algorithms probably stumbled upon mentions of the coronavirus in the app and issued a false positive, and as always, no actual person at Google is available to the developer to resolve the problem.

This also isn't the first time Podcast Addict finds itself caught in the crossfire: Just last month, the developer experienced financial trouble when Google wrongfully disabled in-app AdMob ads because — shocker — you could download adult podcasts via the app. After some back and forth, the issue was resolved and ads were reinstated, securing the developer's revenue. It's odd that other podcast players don't have these issues with the Play Store's algorithms — after all, they offer adult content and coronavirus-related news, too.

In the meantime, you can still get the app via APK Mirror — we've got the latest version. It has the same signature as the Play Store version, so as soon as it's back online, you'll continue receiving regular updates. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Google needs to fix communication with developers. If the company can't prevent false positives from happening entirely, it has to be possible for developers to resolve these problems quickly.

Hiroshi Lockheimer responds

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Android and the Play Store (among other departments), posted a tweet today saying Podcast Addict was falsely flagged and should not have been pulled from the store.

The official Podcast Addict account has confirmed that its appeal has been accepted, but the app likely won't be available again until the pending update is approved by the Play Store.

Let's hope Podcast Addict makes a speedy return to the Play Store.

Back on the Play Store

Google reached out to us to tell us that Podcast Addict is now available on the Play Store again. You can grab it from the widget below. Additionally, Google provided to following statement supplementing Hiroshi Lockheimer's tweet:

To ensure users of Google Play are getting authoritative and accurate health information, we're continuing to take an intentionally cautious approach to apps with Covid-19 content--as outlined in our blog post for developers. In this case we've reinstated the app and have communicated with the developer to ensure the app remains compliant with our policies.

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