Last Thursday evening Michael Gartenberg, who’s a smart analyst, and blogger, tweeted that he’d searched for “Jewish” in Android Market and came up with some Nazi trash. Sure enough, he was right. The moron who was selling a “Hitler theme” and other related junk had used “jewish” and “jews” as keywords. Mind you, this crap was like five screens down, you really had to be working to see it.
Anyhow, Android Market has pretty clear-cut policies about this kind of thing and someone filed a takedown request in the right place, and now that stuff is gone. The next morning Mr. Gartenberg wrote: “From Google. ‘the apps have been removed as a violation of Android content policy’ the system does work.” I think so too; thanks for that, Mr. G.
Check out Joshua Topolsky’s Editorial: Waiter, there's a Nazi theme in my Android Market over at Engadget, which, while it gives this particular tempest more attention than its teapot size probably deserves, does ask the right question: Might the benefits of keeping Nazis out of the store make up for the costs of prior-restraint censorship? I’d offer this case as evidence in favor of the current setup: Anyone can publish anything, but there’s a smooth well-oiled process for ripping the weeds out of the garden, once they get noticed. I’d be interested in Mr. Gartenberg’s retrospective take.
It’s an interesting question, and I’m sure there are more chapters to be told in this story.
Now let me jump out in front of the libertarians and free-market fundamentalists and free-speech absolutists who are going to whine about us policing Android Market: It’s not a public commons, it’s a store. But hey, if it’s essential to your happiness that National Socialism or triple-X video or warez or trademark knock-offs be available on your Android device, they’re out there; click the little check-box on the “Applications” settings screen and you can load apps from any old scuzz-farm out there that you want. Or, more usefully, mail them around and post them on wikis and lots of other things that have come to seem essential to me.
Let me exit on a cheery note: while I’m quite certain that there are commercial opportunities in porn and warez and copyright knock-offs (assuming you can find somewhere to host your server and avoid getting busted) I’m pretty sure that nobody’s going to make any serious coin selling Hitler themes.