Google takes down Indian app that removed Chinese ones: Spokesman

Remove China Apps scanned users’ phones for apps such as ByteDance’s TikTok and Alibaba’s UC Browser. Once deleted, a message popped up saying “You are awesome, no China app found.”

On Tuesday, an app that was seemingly gaining in popularity among Indian android users was taken down by Google Play Store for violating its policies around “deceptive behaviour.” Named ‘Remove China Apps’, the app made headlines over the last week, when it was popularised and endorsed by some of India’s leading online right-wing figures. It comes close on the heels of yet another popular app — a TikTok clone Mitron, which was taken down two days earlier.

At the time of takedown, Remove China Apps had over 5 million downloads on the Play Store.

Google confirmed the development while pointing to a company blog post elaborating its policies that governed the takedown of this app. “We don’t allow apps that attempt to deceive users or enable dishonest behaviour including but not limited to apps which are determined to be functionally impossible. Apps must provide an accurate disclosure, description and images/video of their functionality in all parts of the metadata and should perform as reasonably expected by the user.”

It added, “Apps must not attempt to mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other apps. Any changes to device settings must be made with the user’s knowledge and consent and be easily reversible by the user.”

However, as of Wednesday, the android application package or APK of Remove China Apps was available on other websites, making the product available for download.

Little is known about the app, that managed to gain 5 million users over a two-week period. It was developed by a company called OneTouch AppLabs, based in Jaipur. There are two developers involved in the building of the app, according to sources. These sources added that this was a “voluntary effort”, and that these developers built this app “out of their own interest.”

The developers, these sources add, had applied to Google Play Store for approval on the 17 May, with the app published on the Play Store on the 20th. To be sure, Google only flags apps violating its Play Store policies post-facto i.e. after the app is published.

ET tried reaching out to these developers over email, but sources added that they did not want to engage in any media interactions out of fear of legal repercussions from Chinese and other technology companies.

Upon the takedown of their app, OneTouch AppLabs published a two-line statement on their website, saying, “Dear Friends, Google has removed “Remove China Apps” from google play store. Thank you all for your support in past 2 weeks (sic). “You Are Awesome.”

These apps have been tapping into an increasing anti-China sentiment visible on digital platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. A significant majority of that ire has been directed against apps like the ByteDance-owned short video app TikTok, which has been framed as the “focal point of the anti-China” digital protests, as some involved in it describe in hush tones.

That has, however, moved beyond TikTok, to other apps like Helo, ShareIt and other apps built by Chinese technology companies. These efforts have come following a campaign last month to down-rank TikTok on the Google Play Store after a backlash by fans of a popular Indian YouTube creator, which the Indian digital right also piggybacked on, with concerns over the content and creators on TikTok. However, Google has since restored TikTok’s ratings.

Source #economic times

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