Google is under fire for offering an app promoting gay conversion therapy in its app store despite a widespread petition. Picture: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP
Google is under fire for offering an app promoting gay conversion therapy in its app store despite a widespread petition. Picture: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

Google slammed over ‘pray away gay’ app

TECH giant Google has been branded "unconscionable" for refusing to ban a "profoundly damaging" app promoting gay conversion therapy and advising LGBTI people to destroy their photos, possessions, and other reminders of their "emotional and sexual sin".

The Living Hope Ministries app, which has already been banned by Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, was still available in Google's Australian Play Store on Thursday despite a petition with more than 40,000 signatures calling for its removal.

The issue also comes just months after a report by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre found gay conversion therapy remained "a real problem" in Australia, and caused "immense trauma and grief" to participants.

The app at the centre of the scandal was created by a Texas-based organisation that described itself as a "Christian Ministry for sexual wholeness" that offered counselling and education to Christians who "struggle with same-sex attraction".

It advises LGBTI people to "seek out a Christian therapist who has a redemptive perspective on homosexuality" to "recover" from being attracted to members of the same sex, and even to destroy their possessions.

"Accept that you will need to separate yourself from the connection to the gay lifestyle," the app says.

"Pictures, mementos, anything that connects you to your past is a propped-open door to the bondage of emotional and sexual sin."

 

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft removed the app from their online stores last month after complaints about its content, but Google continued to feature the app in its Play Store.

Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, who started the petition to have the app removed from Google's app store where it has been downloaded more than 1000 times, said the multibillion-dollar company should act quickly to prevent harm.

"It is unconscionable that Google is still offering an online platform to an organisation that seeks to marginalise and stigmatise LGBT people," he said.

"It's time for Google to join Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon (and) delete this hateful and dangerous app."

More than 40,000 people have signed the Change.org petition.

Karen Price, acting chief executive of LGBTI health organisation ACON, said Google was ignoring its social responsibility as "any form of conversion practice" could have a long-lasting negative effect on victims.

"Google is powerful and pervasive," she said, "and with that power and presence comes a responsibility.

"It is disappointing to learn that Google has stepped back from its long stated corporate philosophy 'Don't be evil'.

"This is concerning given their access to data and the privileges they enjoy globally. Clearly Apple, Microsoft and Amazon recognise this responsibility, and are not peddling this ineffective and extremely damaging application.

"It is hard to overstate how vulnerable LGBTI people are to these harmful, manipulative practices which, in the stories of many survivors, have had, and continue to have, deep and long-term consequences for their health."

Google has come under fire for allowing this Living Hope Ministries app to remain in its store despite advocating gay conversion therapy.
Google has come under fire for allowing this Living Hope Ministries app to remain in its store despite advocating gay conversion therapy.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said gay conversion therapy "simply doesn't work," and vulnerable users should be "protected" from false messages about changing their sexual orientation.

"Promoting the idea that people who are same-sex attracted are broken and can be cured is profoundly damaging and just plain wrong," Ms Brown said.

Gay conversion therapy is currently only outlawed in Victoria, with a report last year finding the practice was still "pervasive" in some Australian communities.

Despite widespread criticism of its app, a spokesperson for Living Hope Ministries said claims about the app were "not descriptive of our ministry," and the organisation held "a traditional, orthodox understanding of scripture".

Google Australia did not respond to questions. Google controls what goes into their Play Store via their US-based team.

 

TOP 10 OFFENSIVE APPS OF ALL TIME

Baby Shaker: Just what it sounds like, this app from Sikalosoft encouraged players to shake their iPhones until red Xs appeared over the eyes of the baby on screen and it stopped crying.

Boyfriend Trainer: Accused of glorifying domestic violence, this app encouraged users electrocute, mace and humiliate their virtual boyfriend.

Secret SMS Replicator: This spyware app, once installed on a partner's phone, could forward incoming text messages to another phone number.

Ass Hunter: This game encouraged players to shoot as many gay men as possible using a shotgun.

Is My Son Gay?: The app, advertised to parents, presented a series of questions that it promised could determine sexuality.

Me So Holy: The app let users place their faces on top of religious deities.

Door of Hope: This gay conversion app promised to "cure" its users of homosexuality in just 60 days.

iSnort: This app simulated lines of cocaine on the smartphone screen and encouraged users to pretend to snort them.

Gay Cure: This gay conversion app from Exodus International was removed after a petition.

Girls Around Me: Using Facebook and Foursquare data, this app promised to pinpoint nearby females on a map.

 

 

TOP 10 QUESTIONABLE APPS NOW

QDrops: This conspiracy app, still available in the Google Play Store, once published false claims about Hillary Clinton trafficking children from a Washington pizza shop.

Ganja Farm - Weed Empire: Players run a marijuana empire in this app, learning different strains of ganja and practicing drug smuggling.

Vora -- Fasting Tracker: Designed to track how long you go without food, this app has been linked to eating disorders.

Gay Test: This "testing" app pretends to be a quiz but brands everyone homosexual unless they double-tap one part of the screen so users can be "the only hetrosexual in your group".

The League: This elitist dating app lets subscribers filter out potential matches by their ethnicity, education, age, and even height.

Whisper: This app lets users share secrets and chat anonymously, but it has been widely criticiSed for hosting bullying behaviour.

Lipsi: Potentially dangerous, this app lets users send anonymous messages to other users within 100m.

Calculator+ Vault: It looks like a calculator but it's designed to hide dubious photos from view, potentially from parents.

Messenger Kids: This Facebook offshoot is rated for kids aged just three and over, and lets children communicate and video chat with approved adults.

Men Editor - Slim, Skinny Body: This male-focused photo editing tool is designed to slim down bodies and make muscles larger.



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