Google Play Suspends Element (Reinstated)

Google Suspended Apps Privacy

Google suspended Element, a decentralized and end-to-end encrypted messenging app, without warning or notification. After an initial appeal, the Element team was told that the app was removed to due content that violated Google Play’s Terms of Service. In a follow up appeal, Element explained that the decentralized nature of their app means that they don’t have full control over network content that doesn’t live on their servers:

[…] Element is a generic chat app for connecting to the global Matrix communication network, just as Chrome is a generic web browser for connecting to the Web - and just as Google does not control the content on the Web, Element does not control the content on Matrix.

However, in this case, the content was in fact on Element’s own servers, and their own “Trust and Safety” team had already taken action against this content. Therefore, the app was reinstated:

[…] we received a call from a VP at Google who apologised for the bad communication from Google and explained the situation, which related to some extremely abusive content which was accessible on the default homeserver. Our Trust and Safety team had already identified and acted on this content to enforce the server’s terms of use, and so we’ve explained how Element and Matrix works, established a channel for communication over any future moderation concerns, and expect the app to be restored shortly.

Sources / Relevant Material

  1. Element Blog "Element suspended on Google Play Store: now resolved." by Matthew Hodgson (30 Jan 2021)