Element is a popular client for the federated chat protocol Matrix, and we highlighted it in our roundup of the best open-source alternatives to Google Hangouts last year (back when it was called Riot.im). Unfortunately, the app has been pulled from the Google Play Store without warning, in what seems to be another instance of Google mistaking third-party client applications for hosting all viewable content.

Element announced yesterday on Twitter that its app was suspended in the Play Store, without any notification from Google. The service later received confirmation that the takedown was due to abusive content, but since Element is only a client for Matrix servers, the ban appears to be another instance of Google mistaking content in third-party clients for content hosted by the developer. The same takedowns have happened to many other client applications in recent years.

Element explained the situation in a blog post:

At 2021-01-29 at 21:35 UTC Google suspended Element from the Play Store without warning or notification.  We submitted an appeal asking for clarification at 23:18, and at 05:31 received a generic update from the Google Play Policy team citing that the app has been removed due to content which contravenes their terms of use, and asking us to “make the necessary changes to [our] app” and “upload a new app using a new package name and a new app name”.

As of 11:44 UTC we’ve submitted a detailed appeal to reiterate that Element is a generic chat app for connecting to the global Matrix communication network, just as Chrome is a generic web browser for connecting to the Web - and just as Google does not control the content on the Web, Element does not control the content on Matrix.

We have also explained that the Matrix servers that we do run as Element (including the default Matrix.org homeserver, which we run on behalf of The Matrix.org Foundation) have strict Terms of Use which we actively enforce. We abhor abuse, and Element is not an app that caters to abusive content.

Hopefully, Element will make a quick return to the Play Store. In the meantime, you can still download the app from APKMirror or F-Droid.


The Twitter account for Element has announced that the Android app should be returning to the Play Store shortly. A Google VP told the team that a report of abusive content on Element's own server was responsible for the takedown, which has now been removed.