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18-Apr-2019 14:49

To answer the first question of who made this association between Grindr and Sex Offender Search: it is those who design and maintain the Android Marketplace, the Droid's version of Apple's App Store.

To be fair, Apple has had its own struggles deciding what kinds of apps to sell: for a while it rejected a cartoon app created by Pulitzer Prize-winning Mark Fiore because it "ridiculed public figures"; and it recently deleted an app designed by a religious group to "cure" gay people.

Is the Android Marketplace noticing a large overlap between those who download Grindr and those who install Sex Offender Search?

This seems unlikely given their two very different target audiences.

The last question -- what harm are such associations doing -- is more complicated to answer.

Associations like those listed in the Android Marketplace (or Apple's Genius system, Amazon's recommendation engine or Bing's search suggestions) can be starting points for good conversation or chilling silencers of individual expression and community identity.

He doesn't know anyone else who's gay and he's desperate for ways to meet others who are gay/bi/curious -- and, yes, maybe see how it feels to have sex with a guy.

He hears about Grindr, thinks it might be a low-risk first step in exploring his feelings, goes to the Android Marketplace to get it, and looks at the list of "relevant" and "related" applications.

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(This is the well-documented "Spiral of Silence" effect political scientists routinely observe that essentially says you are less likely to express yourself if you think your opinions are in the minority, or likely to be in the minority in the near future.)* * *Imagine for a moment a gay man questioning his sexual orientation.To be starting points for conversation, designers must first acknowledge that recommendation systems (both those that are run by humans and those relying upon algorithms) have the power to suggest and constrain expression.Bizarre links between Grindr and Sex Offender Search can be great starting points for those who are privileged enough to recognize nonsensical associations, possess enough technical knowledge to understand how such systems might make links, and have the confidence and communication skills to argue the point with friends, family members and others.The problem of deciding what to sell through the app store is not new.

But we're far from fully understanding the ethical obligations that Apple, Google and others have when their platforms act as de facto regulators of free speech.

Or maybe he even starts to think that there is a link between gay men and sexual abuse because, after all, the Marketplace had to have made that association for some reason.