Google removes “Slavery Simulator” from Play Store

Google has removed a game from the Google Play Store after massive criticism was levied at the platform regarding its harmful content. The title was called “Slavery Simulator” and as the name suggests, it involved gameplay based around the practice of slavery.

“Simulador de Escravidão” was the original name of the Portuguese game that attracted huge amounts of negative coverage in Brazil since it is a country where slavery was only abolished in 1888. Magnus Games, the developers of Slavery Simulator, had it available on the Google Play Store starting in April 2021. Despite receiving a low number of downloads, around a thousand, the game attracted massive coverage to an ongoing issue of discrimination in Brazil.

Critics of the Game

The Brazilian politicians heavily criticized the game, and the country’s Ministry for Racial Equality even met with Google to discuss content moderation and review its policies. Brazil is one of many countries that consider “fake news” laws that push companies such as Google and Apple to root out harmful content and penalize them for failing to adequately monitor it. Therefore, Google and Brazil will likely continue to revisit the issue.

The Importance of Content Moderation

The concept of creating a game trivializing the subject of slavery shouldn’t have gotten this far. Surely it would attract controversy and end up being removed due to its controversial nature, however, it will certainly raise questions on whether guidelines for harmful content are being effectively applied. It is especially egregious, given Google’s statement to news outlets that promoted its stance of apps that promote violence or incite hatred against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin:

“When violations are found, we take appropriate action.”

Despite Google’s guidelines, most would argue that Slavery Simulator, by its very concept violated all these rules, highlighting concerns about weak or ineffective content moderation by Google Play Store.

The Impact on Internet Giants

At a time when internet giants like Google and Apple are publicly sparring with governments, issues surrounding the subject of harmful content are likely to only increase calls for tighter controls.  For instance, Apple App Store famously undergoes more rigorous checks than some, but EU regulation will require the “opening up” of their platform, something Apple is not happy about.