Google Play robots mistakenly banned a video app that used “ASS” subtitle listing in the description. For the unaware, the ‘.ass’ filetype is supported by most video players, including VLC and Google’s own Android video player library, Exoplayer. Hence, it was a bit unusual for the developer to understand why the app was banned. As of now the app has been reinstated with the ASS subtitle listing still in the description.
The developer for Just (Video) Player posted their story to Hacker News, writing in the app’s bug tracker, “After a tiny unrelated description update, Just Player got suspended from the Google Play Store for “Sexual Content and Profanity policy“. Google finds issues with the following: Full description (en_US): “* Subtitles: SRT, SSA, ASS, TTML, VTT.”
It looks like a standard video player feature like support for the “ASS” subtitle format was apparently enough to temporarily earn a suspension. The developer “immediately filed an appeal”, and the app was later back up on the Play Store with the “ASS” listing still in the description.
The “.ass” filetype comes from the anime subtitling community, which came up with the “Sub Station Alpha” subtitle editor and two file types. The first three versions used the name “.ssa” filetype. However, the fourth version and its successors got the “Advanced Sub Station Alpha” files, or “.ass.” When compared to standard SRT files, you get advanced features like subtitle styling, precise subtitle placement, and karaoke-style graphics with “.ass” filetype.
Google Play developers have long-complained about app review bots saying that they “ban first and ask questions later”. These bots ban, send an automated email, and it’s up to the developers to figure out why they were banned. The process is automated and developers don’t get to interact with a human.