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EskomSePush removed from the Google Play Store

Popular load-shedding notification app EskomSePush (ESP) has been pulled from the Google Play Store.

On Sunday, ESP co-founder Herman Maritz tweeted a screenshot of an email from Google noting that the app had been suspended.

MyBroadband also found that ESP was no longer available for download from the app store, and when clicking on the “Android App on Google Play” download link on the ESP website, the user is presented with a “Not Found” page.

When asked about the reason for the suspension by another Twitter user, Maritz expressed frustration around the vagueness of Google’s initial suspension email.

He indicated that the issue could be related to content generated by users, who are able to use chat functionality to discuss happenings around their neighbourhood.

“We have been getting a few rejections about User Generated Content. But we have everything in place according to policies: banned words, community reporting, moderators,” Maritz said.

“Today they claim ‘Misleading Claims’ [with] no information given,” he added.

Reasons for suspension

Maritz told MyBroadband that Google provided further feedback on how the app violated the (User Generated Content) policy 24 hours after it had been pulled from the Google Play Store.

According to Google, while ESP had included the ability to flag inappropriate users in the app, there was no way to report objectionable content and take action against this when needed.

Maritz pointed out, however, that ESP actually does allow for reporting objectionable users and content.

“To ban the app for that is crazy. The button says ‘Report User’ but the functionality is ‘Report User and Content’. So our algorithm can remove content and ban users if needed,” Maritz stated.

For the above-mentioned reason, ESP has now submitted an updated version of the app to Google with the button’s name simply changed to “Report” to clear any confusion.

In addition, Google indicated that ESP had supposedly not met its COVID-19 app policies.

These require that apps which provide medical, treatment, vaccine, testing or other information specifically for COVID-19 will only be approved for distribution on Google Play if they were published, commissioned or authorised by official government entities or organisations “deeply rooted” in healthcare.

ESP offers a COVID-19 statistics page, which it has also now removed in order to get the app re-approved.

Maritz added that the timing of the suspension was painful because Google Ads stopped working during load-shedding, when ESP makes the revenue necessary to keep the app running.

2.5 million users

The suspension comes around a month after ESP told MyBroadband it had garnered more than 2.2 million users amid repeated bouts of load-shedding being implemented since the start of 2021.

Maritz stated that this number had since grown to 2.5 million.

As there is no separate APK package for ESP available on the app’s website right now, Android users who don’t yet have the app installed will have to look at alternatives for load-shedding notifications.

The app’s functionality looks to be unaffected by the suspension, meaning that those who already have it installed will still be able to use it.

This will be particularly useful over the next few days, as Eskom has announced that it will continue implementing stage 2 load-shedding until Wednesday due to further breakdowns at several power stations.

Update – Monday 11:50

The updated ESP app is now available on the Google Play Store.

While it does not appear when searching in the store, Android users can download it from this link.

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