Google Sued For Removing SocialZoid From PlayStore

Google has been hit with a lawsuit by app company SocialZoid, which says its 50-plus apps were wrongly removed from the PlayStore this summer.

SocialZoid, along with developer Erik Groset, allege in a complaint filed on Wednesday that Google removed Kamasutra Animated HD -- and other SocialZoid apps -- without a good reason. SocialZoid and Groset add that Google approved the Kamasutra app on three prior occasions, before changing course and banning it.

“SocialZoid has enjoyed a portfolio of 50+ apps with over 2.5 million downloads, hundreds of thousands of active users, tens of thousands of positive ratings,” the complaint alleges. “By one click of a button, Google purported to wipe out years of sweat and monetary investment and substantial goodwill that Mr. Groset and SocialZoid had built up in the SocialZoid profile and app collection.”

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Groset adds that he learned of Google's decision on July 1 -- the day after he quit another job to devote himself to SocialZoid full time.

Google allegedly told Groset that he could no longer offer apps on Google Play, due to repeated violations of Google's content policy. But Groset says in his complaint that he complied with Google's rules.

Google told SocialZoid that the Kamasutra Animated app violated a prohibition on content with sexually explicit material, according to the complaint. But Groset says that the app -- which he describes as a “sexual health app for educational purposes” -- lacks sexually explicit material.

Earlier this year, Google removed two other SocialZoid apps for allegedly violating other policies. Groset says in his complaint that Google came to the wrong conclusions about those apps.

“Google did not follow a 'three strikes and you’re out' policy, but instead a 'three home runs and you’re out' policy,” states the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. “The notice of violation is a pitch, and it apparently does not matter to Google one iota what the batter does with that pitch.”

Among other claims, SocialZoid and Groset allege that Google engaged in false advertising by charging developers $25 per year for each account. “Even if an app developer complies with every policy in actuality, Google’s review platform is fickle enough that Google will still end up deleting their account and keeping the $25,” the lawsuit alleges. “Google’s appeal process is so lacking that there is no meaningful opportunity to clear the developer’s name and regain access.”

Google hasn't yet responded to Online Media Daily's request for comment. But the company seems to have the upper hand in this lawsuit, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman.

“The odds are definitely stacked against this developer in court,” says Goldman, who publicized the lawsuit via Twitter on Thursday. One obstacle for SocialZoid is that retailers have never been obligated to carry particular items in their stores. “Imagine General Mills complaining that their pancakes aren't being carried in a grocery store's frozen aisle,” Goldman says.

He adds retailers are expected to decide what merchandise they want to offer. “Google should not be sued every time it decides to ding an app,” he adds. “We want retailers to exercise discretion. That's why they're valuable to us.”

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