Google has removed a game entitled “Slavery Simulator” from their Google Play Store after massive criticism was levied at the platform from, amongst other places, Brazil.
The title which - as the name suggests - involved gameplay based around the practice of slavery, had attracted huge amounts of negative coverage in Brazil, a country where slavery was only abolished in 1888. “Simulador de Escravidão”, as it is called in the original Portuguese, was criticised heavily by politicians in the country. Google have now removed the title only after it had been available for more than a month after its original release in April.
The BBC have reported that Brazil’s Ministry for Racial Equality will be meeting with Google to review its policies around content moderation, as well as possibly levying legal action against the developers Magnus Games (no relation to the but similarly named Magnus Games Studio). Despite a relatively low number of downloads (around a thousand) the game has attracted massive coverage in relation to ongoing issues of discrimination in Brazil.
An issue that shouldn’t have gotten this far
For many observers, the idea that a game covering and trivialising this subject matter would attract controversy and end up being removed would seem to be obvious. However, it will certainly raise questions for those publishing and developing for the Google Play Store as to how effectively guidelines around harmful content are being applied and could be applied in the future.
It’s especially egregious for many as, in a statement to news outlets, Google insisted, “apps that promote violence or incite hatred against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, or that depict or promote gratuitous violence or other dangerous activities. When violations are found, we take appropriate action.” However, most would argue that the game by its very concept violated all these rules.
Brazil is one of many countries considering extensive “Fake news” legislation which would put pressure on companies such as Google and Apple to root out harmful content and penalise them for failures to adequately moderate it. Meanwhile Apple's App Store famously undergoes more rigorous checks than some but recent EU regulation will require the 'opening up' of their platform - something Apple themselves are less than happy about.
At a time when internet giants are publicly sparring with governments, issues around a game such as this are likely to only boost calls for tighter controls.