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Google removes ‘gay conversion therapy’ app

By Jamie Harris, Press Association Science Technology Reporter

Google has bowed to pressure to remove an app accused of promoting gay conversion therapy, months after Apple, Amazon and Microsoft took action.

The Living Hope Ministries app, made by a US Christian group, offered a number of guides that claim to help “sexually broken guys” by building a “deeper relationship with God” through prayer.

One article on the app suggested finding a counsellor who has a “biblical understanding that homosexuality is changeable through the power of Jesus Christ”.

Campaigners urged the tech giant to follow other stores in removing the “dangerous” app from Google Play, with more than 140,000 people signing a petition.

“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,” a Google spokesman said.

Truth Wins Out, the US gay rights organisation that led calls for the app to be pulled, said it hoped the move would send a “powerful message”.

“We are delighted that Google finally backed down and deleted a dangerous app that targeted LGBTQ youth with toxic messages of guilt and shame,” Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out said.

“It is still unfathomable why Google stubbornly defended the indefensible for months when the hateful and destructive content in this app should have been self-evident.

“We hope this sends a powerful message that ‘pray away the gay’ products are unacceptable and have no place in a decent and civilised society.”

Google follows Apple, Amazon and Microsoft in removing the app (Yui Mok/PA)

Living Hope Ministries has previously rejected claims it has committed any wrongdoing, saying anyone who downloads the app or participates in their in-person ministries seek them out.

“I am deeply troubled that in a day where individual rights are championed and personal choice is lauded as one of the highest virtues, TWO (Truth Wins Out) and those who support it would restrict the free choice of fellow LGBTQ+ people to find the help, love, and support they desire,” executive director Ricky Chelette told the Press Association in January.

In July 2018, the Government outlined a new £4.5 million LGBT action plan that would ban conversion therapies.