Google bans dodgy diet pills and snake oil salesmen from the Play Store

Google Play Store

As part of its continuing mission to clean up the Play Store, Google has announced a blanket ban on apps that "sell or promote unapproved substances". These include drugs that are regulated or banned in the US, as well as potentially harmful herbal supplements.

The new rules, which were spotted by Android Police, specifically mention products containing ephedra, which is sometimes used to boost short-term weight-loss, but can have life-threatening side-effects including heart attacks and strokes.

Google is also cracking down on apps that claim an untested product is as safe and effective as a legitimate prescription drug, or can prevent or treat an illness.

Trouble in store

Google has its work cut out trying to block apps that are shady, if not outright illegal. Last year it announced a ban on cryptocurrency mining apps, as well as apps that use children's cartoon characters to promote adult themes (like deeply creepy Disney princess childbirth simulators).

In addition to banning sketchy pills, the latest expansion of the Play Store's rules clarifies what is meant by bullying and harassment and exploiting sensitive events. For example, hounding the families of victims after a tragedy and appearing to profit from a terrible event without helping anyone involved are now strictly forbidden.

Cleaning up the store this way is a herculean task, but with new types of dodgy content appearing regularly, a highly specific, piecemeal approach seems to be the only option without resorting to an Apple-style 'walled garden' approach. That rulebook will just keep growing.