Google has removed multiple apps in its store that were promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory (and making the company money), months after Media Matters reported on the apps and their violation of the company's policies.
The apps -- “QMAP,” “Q Alerts!,” and “Q Alerts LITE” -- would show posts from “Q,” the central figure in the conspiracy theory that has been linked to multiple threatening and violent acts, including murders and attempted kidnappings. An FBI field office last year released a memo that listed QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat.
None of those apps are now listed in Google Play.
In a statement to Media Matters, a Google spokesperson confirmed the company had removed the apps, saying, “When we find apps that violate Play policy by distributing misleading or harmful information, we remove them from the store.” Media Matters sent a request to Google for comment on the QAnon apps in late March but did not receive a response, nor were the apps removed at that time.
The apps’ removal comes months after Media Matters reported in early February about their existence and that Google allowed them even though it prohibits apps with “content related to terrorism, such as content that promotes terrorist acts, incites violence, or celebrates terrorist attacks.” The report also noted that Google profited off of them, as several cost money to download.
Since Media Matters’ report was published, a QAnon supporter who was later arrested for threatening former Vice President Joe Biden posted multiple screenshots from Q Alerts!, showing she used the app. And misinformation about the novel coronavirus that was posted by “Q” also then spread via the apps (Media Matters’ request to Google for comment in March specifically mentioned the apps spreading coronavirus misinformation).
A user on 8kun’s “/qresearch/” message board -- where “Q” posts -- put up an image on May 21 that showed a message supposedly from Google saying QMAP had been suspended from Google Play due to violating its “Deceptive Behavior policy.” The policy, which Google cited in its message to QMAP, bars apps that “attempt to deceive users or enable dishonest behavior,” including those featuring “medical or health-related content or functionalities that are misleading or potentially harmful.”
The fact that it took Google months to take action against the apps even though they were clearly violating its rules suggests the company is struggling to enforce its app policies in a consistent manner. In March, Google banned the Infowars app from Google Play for also pushing coronavirus misinformation. Yet these new removals took weeks longer. And, worse still, Google has not yet removed all QAnon apps on its platform: “Quanon,” which translates QAnon-related information into Spanish, is still available in Google Play.
Update (5/26/20): The Spanish-language QAnon app has now also been removed from Google Play.