After Massive Petition, Google Play Removes Anti-Gay Conversion App

Published on March 29, 2019

A petition began circling the social media sphere just a couple of weeks ago. “Demand Google stop peddling dangerous ‘Pray Away The Gay’ app targeting LGBT youth,” the petitions call to action reads. The petition needed 140,000 signatures in order to fulfill its goal, and it quickly met that in less than a week. The foundation behind the petition, Truth Wins Out, claimed that the conversion therapy app sold in Google’s Play Store was a danger to the mental health of LGBTQ youth. Now, Google is taking it down.

Pray Away The Gay isn’t available in any other app store. A fierce anti-gay Christian organization called Living Hope Ministries developed the app. The religious group advertises its ability to convert the sexuality of its user base, but cites it as therapy for those who struggle with Same Sex Attraction (SSA). The term is often used by the far-right to describe homosexuality as a curable disease, rather than a legitimate sexual identity.

Human Rights Campaign

Google fiercely defended the app’s place in the Play Store as long as it could. The company was aware of the backlash it was facing by keeping the app up, but defended that it did not violate any terms of use agreements and, therefore, would remain in the store. That is, until the backlash and campaigns to take the app down started gaining traction.

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the U.S., announced that it would be revoking its endorsement to Google as long as the app remained in the Play Store. Hours later, Google announced that it would be removing the app. “After consulting with outside advocacy groups, reviewing our policies, and making sure we had a thorough understanding of the app and its relation to conversion therapy, we’ve decided to remove it from the Play Store, consistent with other app stores,” said a spokesperson for Google in a statement.

Truth Wins Out

Of course, it was organizations like Truth Wins Out that helped escalate awareness of the issue in the first place. “Myself and Truth Wins Out have worked tirelessly for two months to demand that Google take down Living Hope Ministries’ harmful exgay app,” says Jon Bozeman the campaign manager at Truth Wins Out. “Through our petition and [in] linking up with like-minded organizations, we put the pressure on Google to do the right thin—and they did,” he says.

As a survivor of conversion therapy programs such as “Pray Away The Gay,” Bozeman feels that this particular victory is a huge step forward for the tech company. “This has particular meaning for me,” he says. “We live in a country where large corporations overreach, affecting and controlling our lives in ways we sometimes don’t notice. They have too much control, so it’s great to know we can change them with our voices,” he says.

Taking down the gay conversion therapy app was a small victory in the long road to equality for the LGBTQ community. It’s often easy to assume that the largest hurdles are done now that gay marriage has been federally legalized for a couple of years now. However, small steps backward happen just as often. Large tech companies can send a message—both positive and negative—in how they respond to criticism over their advocacy of marginalized groups. In America, this may have been a small step, but in setting examples for countries like Brunei—it’s important to overcome every little obstacle.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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