Mar 29, 2019

Google pulls "conversion therapy" app amid pressure from LGBTQ groups

Google's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters. Photo: Google

Google is pulling a controversial app that LGBTQ rights groups say engages in a form of conversion therapy, joining Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, all of which banned the app months ago.

Why it matters: Google had refused to ban the app from Living Hope Ministries, saying it didn't clearly violate its Play Store terms of service.

The backdrop: The change comes less than a day after Human Rights Campaign suspended Google's rating in its influential Corporate Equality Index. Axios first reported last week that HRC was considering such a move. Google's score in the index, released earlier Thursday, will now be restored.

What they're saying:

  • Google: "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."
  • HRC President Chad Griffin: "We applaud Google for making the right decision to pull this app from their online store. So-called conversion therapy is a debunked practice that's tantamount to child abuse and is proven to have dangerous consequences for its victims. Google and other platforms that have pulled this app are taking an important step to protect LGBTQ youth."
  • Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director, The Trevor Project: “The very idea that sexual orientation and gender identity should be changed is junk science. We are glad Google has joined the rest of the technology sector in its rightful rejection of the dangerous and discredited practice which harms the LGBTQ youth we serve each day.”

The app, which had been downloaded at least 1,000 times, offered testimonials and articles and includes sections for men, women, young people and parents.

  • More than 140,000 people had signed a Change.org petition calling on Google to ban the app. That effort as well as a behind-the-scenes push to get others to apply pressure was spearheaded by Truth Wins Out. A separate petition, calling on Apple to reinstate the app, has 24 signatures.

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U.S. and Taliban sign peace deal

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Qatar. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

The United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on Saturday after over a year of off-and-on negotiations, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The signing of the deal officially begins the process to end the United States' longest war, which has spanned nearly two decades. The agreement sets a timetable to pull the remaining 13,000 American troops out of Afghanistan, per the Times, but is contingent on the Taliban's completion of commitments, including breaking ties with international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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