We’ve asked Google for comment.
An action like this isn’t completely surprising. Some fediverses are popular among hate groups kicked out of mainstream social networks or denied access to key services. Gab, a social network that developed a reputation for tolerating hate speech, switched to a fediverse using a forked version of Mastodon after losing its hosting provider, PayPal access and other tools it used to keep running. It’s not certain if Google is focused on Gab, but Gab might be a target.
At the same time, there’s a concern Google may hurt innocent bystanders and overlook efforts by fediverses to keep hate speech off their platforms. Mastodon’s operators balked at Gab’s move and blocked domains to prevent interactions, while some Mastodon apps also block Gab. These apps aren’t necessarily havens for bigots, and it’s not clear that Google is recognizing the differences between apps.
Update 8/29 3: 05PM ET: We’ve double-checked and the apps are still present on the Play Store. We’ve updated the story accordingly.
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