Limited Software’s #BlackLivesMatter tower defense game was barred from both itch.io and Google Play, both services denied the game distribution rights on their platforms on the grounds of “hate speech”.
Limited Software received an e-mail from Google Play indicating that the game was barred from the app store for Android devices on the grounds of violating their terms and conditions relating to hate speech in apps. An image of the e-mail can be viewed below.
According to the developers in a piece that was published on Medium, it’s stated that the problem is attempts to censor free speech, writing…
“Big companies with social and political agendas are peer-pressuring every other platform into adopting their double-standards of protecting some users and punishing others, declaring your art, your opinions, your honesty “hateful.”
“If you take a position that these companies don’t like — or anger a user who profits by self-victimizing — you’ll be labeled a “troll” so that you’re banned, silenced, and ignored.”
They explain that Google’s nebulous definition of “hate speech” on their policy page didn’t clearly define what the problem was with #BlackLivesMatter: The Game. For reference, here’s what it states on the Google Play policy page…
“We don’t allow apps that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
According to Limited Software, they argue that the game features two white enemies and one black enemy and that all of the dialogue from the characters happened to be lifted right from comments made by #BlackLivesMatter advocates on Twitter. It was also mentioned that the game’s rating was suggested to be “Teen” in regions outside of Australia, and R-18+ within Australia.
Google gave Limited Software the option of appealing the decision, where it’s stated in the medium piece…
“They offered to let us appeal the decision to ban the game, but something told me that the appeal wasn’t going to have much luck. And it didn’t. They just reiterated the same vague thing.”
I did reach out to Google’s support to ask about why the game was removed from the Google Play store on the grounds of hate speech. I was informed by a representative that she didn’t know why the game was removed from the Google Play store because there was no record showing the cause of the removal. I was informed by the Google Play representative that the case was being forwarded to the Google Play developers, who would try to offer a more detailed explanation on the game’s removal, and that they would respond within 24 to 48 hours. That was two days ago on September 22nd.
Google has yet to follow up with a response regarding the removal of the game from the Google Play store.
I did manage to reach out to Limited Software about the issue, asking about whether or not they had any interaction with Google Play support before the incident of having the game removed, and outside of the game being banned it was mentioned that they had not had any interaction with the staff. They also mentioned that they were willing to give Google Play a try for the #BlackLivesMatter game because they heard that Apple’s iTunes was a lot more strict regarding content.
Limited Software made it where you can download a free version of the game for PC from over on the official website, since itch.io also banned the game from being hosted on their service for the same reasons as Google.
I did manage to get in a little play time with the title, which you can view below.