LibreTorrent Booted off Google Play Because It Has Too Many Clones
Google's Play Store policies are fairly level-headed, considering the sheer number of apps it hosts. As is the case with the entire internet, it's a never-ending game of cat and mouse between Google and shady developers, and the latter often get away with a lot before Google deletes them off the platform. Unfortunately, this means that well-meaning, honest developers often feel the brunt of the seemingly arbitrary Play Store policies. In the latest incident, a well-known Torrenting app by the name of LibreTorrent got booted off the Play Store.
According to a report by Torrentfreak, LibreTorrent has been removed from Google Play because it violated the platform's "spam policy". LibreTorrent, unlike other torrent clients, such as uTorrent and BitTorrent, is open-source software. It means that just about anyone can slap a fresh coat of paint over the source code, and repackage it as an entirely new app.
This is exactly what happened with LibreTorrent. The Play Store was (and still is) inundated with numerous clones of the apps that masquerade as Libretorrent. Very often, they're carbon copies of the app and it is virtually impossible to distinguish it from the original. As we've seen earlier, Google doesn't take too kindly to spam apps and often blacklists developers for major transgressions.
Google's decision to remove LibreTorrent is unfair, but the reasoning behind it is legitimate
LibreTorrent's developer, Yaroslav Pronin, reached out to Google seeking clarification and was issued the following reply:
I’ve reviewed your appeal request and found that your app still violates Google Play Policy. During review, we found that your app violates the policy for Spam. We don’t allow apps that spam users or Google Play, such as apps that are duplicative and low-quality.
The only way for out for Pronin at this point is to republish the app under a different name. It is rather disastrous, as LibreTorrent racked up millions of downloads and was one of the few trustworthy apps of its kind. Furthermore, it'll take the new app months if not years to get to where LibreTorrent was. LibreTorrent is still available via other sources such as F-Droid and APKMirror.
While it's easy to whip out our pitchforks and blame Google for banning a legitimate app, we have to bear in mind that the Play Store has a massive problem with duplicate apps. There is no foolproof way for Google to distinguish an original from a clone. It is worse in LibreTorrent's case, considering that clones would pop up at an alarming rate after being flagged as clones. It was only a matter of time before the original would fall prey to Google's banhammer.