Google and the woke morality police cancel anti-porn apps

Michael Cook
October 14, 2022
Reproduced with Permission

In the latest skirmish in the cancel culture wars, Google is booting apps for fighting porn addiction off its app store. In a little-noticed move last month, the internet behemoth removed Covenant Eyes and Accountability2You from the Google Play Store.

Google dropped them after journalists from Wired , a technology magazine, alleged that they violated Google's malware policy. Both Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You dispute this.

According to an article in Wired , "The Ungodly Surveillance of Anti-Porn 'Shameware' Apps" , these two apps are "part of a multimillion-dollar ecosystem of so-called accountability apps that are marketed to both churches and parents as tools to police online activity."

And ... Shock! Horror! Altogether Incredible! In This Day And Age! These apps have a "zero-tolerance approach to pornography." In fact, Wired commented indignantly, their websites claim that "not only is watching porn a moral failure, but any amount of porn consumption is bad for your health ".

Accountability apps are a novel way of controlling pornography addictions. The apps track a user's internet use and allow a friend or mentor to access the log. The idea is that it's easier to overcome a bad habit by sharing your struggle with someone you trust.

The technical hitch, Wired found, is that "both apps are built to collect, monitor, and report all sorts of innocent behavior. The applications exploited Android's accessibility permissions to monitor almost everything someone does on their phone."

Puffing out its chest and stepping up proudly as a socially responsible moral policeman, Wired ratted on Covenant Eyes and Accountability2You to Google.

And Google responded according to the woke playbook.

"Google Play permits the use of the Accessibility API for a wide range of applications," Google's spokesperson Danielle Cohen told Wired. "However, only services that are designed to help people with disabilities access their device or otherwise overcome challenges stemming from their disabilities are eligible to declare that they are accessibility tools."

It's obvious that neither Wired nor Google regard addiction to pornography as a disability. But it is.

"We've heard from hundreds of people who have struggled with pornography addiction and dependencies that the best way most of them have found to help is through an accountability model, similar to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and many successful gambling recovery programs," Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation told Baptist Press . "Pornography can be highly addictive, and research (has) objectively identified a wide array of harms from pornography use."

A tech fix for a moral problem may not be the ultimate solution, but for people who are desperate to regain control of their lives it may be worthwhile. It's outrageous that Google won't give them a chance.

Fundamentally, this is the battle over " gay conversion therapy " transferred to the internet. If the LGBT lifestyle is something natural, normal, healthy, and praiseworthy, then dissuading someone from following it must be a crime - or so opponents of "conversion therapy" argue. Similarly, the censors at Wired and Google appear to believe that pornography is beneficial. If so, banning accountability apps created by anti-pornography campaigners must be socially responsible.

But the case against these apps is absurdly over-blown.

As Wired must surely know, a "multimillion-dollar ecosystem" on the internet is peanuts. It notes that Covenant Eyes had revenues of US$26 million. What is that compared to the revenues of the dating apps Tinder ($1.6 billion) and Grindr ($147 million)? Or the revenues of OnlyFans ($932 million), a company marketing DIY pornography which has an app on Google?

Furthermore, these apps are dangerous.

A study released earlier this month by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that three-quarters of survey respondents had been subjected to sexual violence facilitated via dating apps in the last five years. Sexual harassment was the most common form of behavior reported, as well as abusive and threatening language, and unsolicited sexual images.

So why have Covenant Eyes and Accountability2You been removed from the Google Play Store and not the scores of dating apps and pornography apps? Does Google think that purity is more dangerous than porn?