Google has reportedly removed 73 LGBTQ-focused apps from the Play Store in Indonesia following persistent pressure from the country’s government.
Communications minister Noor Iza claimed in a Wednesday interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Blued, a meetup service which has amassed 27 million users, was removedalong with dozens of other apps connecting LGBTQ people in the Muslim-majority country.
He said it was removed following complaints.
“There was some negative content related to pornography inside the application,” Iza told the French news agency. “Probably one or some members of the application put the pornographic content inside.”
Google declined to respond to an inquiry from the AFP as to why the search engine and global technology company complied with the government’s demands to block LGBTQ apps.
Its public relations team also did not reply to multiple requests for comment from INTO.
As INTO previously reported, the Indonesian government has been attempting to block LGBTQ locals from accessing Blued for years without much success. Iza claimed two years ago that the app would be banned along with two other gay chat services: BoyAhoy and Grindr (note: the latter is INTO’s parent company).
The minister called the social networks “deviant sexual content” in an earlier interview with the AFP.
Despite the government’s claims, preventing access to Blued has been easier said than done. The company, which offers both an app and a web-based platform for users, changes its Domain Name System (DNS) whenever the government shuts the site down. Federal authorities blocked five domains in October of last year: blued.cn, blued.tw, blued.us, bluedapp.com, and bluedofficial.tumblr.com.
Blued reportedly continues to be available in the iTunes store, as Apple has yet to remove the app.
The recent move coincides with an attempt by the Indonesian government to enforce harsh penalties on homosexuality in a proposed update to its criminal code. Lawmakers are weighing an amendment to the Indonesian Criminal Code banning sex outside of marriagewhich would likely target LGBTQ people, as the government doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.
Lawmaker Arsul Sani claimed gay intimacy would be “considered the same as adultery, where men and women having sex outside marriage can be considered a crime.”
A conviction under the updated codes could result in a five-year prison sentence.
Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 400 LGBTQ people have been arrested in Indonesia over the past year and a half, as the once-tolerant nation has taken a hard turn toward religious conservatism. Last October, police arrested 58 men in a raid on a Jakarta sauna known to be a hotspot for gay men.
Most recently, a dozen trans women in the province of Aceh were arrested, their heads shaved by police, and forced into conversion therapy.