Google Play removed a Malaysian government app that promised to correct gay people and “return them to nature”

Google Play removed a Malaysian government app that promised to correct gay people and “return them to nature”

An app produced by the Malaysian government that promised to help the LGBTI community to “back to nature” was removed from the Google Play store, after it was found to be in violation of the platform’s guidelines.

The app was first launched in July 2016, but garnered new attention after the Malaysian government’s Islamic development department shared it on Twitter. He claimed that the app would allow LGBTI people to return to a state of nature or purity, and that it included an e-book detailing the experience of a gay man who “abandoned homosexual behavior” during Ramadan.

“Whenever an app is flagged to us, we investigate our Play Store policies and if violations are found, we take appropriate action to maintain a trustworthy experience for everyone”Google said in a statement in response to The Guardian.

The app has since been removed from the Play Store. Their guidelines do not allow applications “that attempt to mislead users or enable dishonest behavior, including but not limited to applications determined to be functionally impossible.”

The Islamic development department of Malaysia has not yet ruled on the issue but the fact has sparked comments and rejection by experts in the field.

Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher at Amnesty International in Malaysia, spoke out on the matter, saying the app was dangerous and inciting hatred.

“Conversion therapy is a deeply discriminatory and harmful practice that can cause lasting harm to those subjected to it. It has been criminalized in many countries. We call on the Malaysian authorities to immediately abandon the use of Hijrah Diri and instead ensure respect and protection of LGBTI rights in the country.”said.

Numan Afifi, founder of the LGBT+ rights group Pelangi Campaign, said Google and other platforms should improve moderation of the content they host on their platforms. Community groups trying to counter harmful material already face an uphill battle, he added, including the risk of surveillance, censorship and raids on in-person gatherings.

“Now that the general election is coming up, I’m pretty sure the demonization of the LGBT community is going to get more intense, especially among those who are trying to win conservative votes.” he claimed.

Malaysia’s LGBTI community faces widespread discrimination, including laws prohibiting same-sex relationships and non-normative gender expression.

The Play Store previously removed an app from a US-based group Living Hope Ministries that promoted so-called “conversion therapy.” The app, which suggested users could “pray to keep gays away,” was removed in 2019.