Google has stopped showing search results for coronavirus on the Play Store, seemingly in a bid to tackle misinformation around the COVID-19 disease. Earlier, the company had also enabled an SOS alert on the Google Search for all coronavirus-related information from trustworthy sources. The coronavirus outbreak that has quickly spread to several countries across the world, has killed over 3,000 people. It had originated in China in December and has infected over 100,000 people in more than 60 countries.
9to5Google, which was first to report about Google's move, has shared before and after search results for coronavirus and COVID-19 keywords, that clearly show that until now, the Google Play Store did show results for 'coronavirus and 'COVID-19' search queries. The report also says that Google has disabled the search results for its website play.google.com as well.
Gadgets 360 can also confirm that search results for both coronavirus and COVID-19 are indeed not showing up on Google Play Store and Google Play website.
The website does throw Audiobook, ebooks, and music results for both the keywords if you search on homepage. So, it seems the results are only being hidden for apps and games.
Another report in Android Police says that the Google Play Store does search misspelled queries, for example - Covid19 without the hyphen, or coronvirus or cornavirus.
The Android Police report also notes that there are several official apps that have the coronavirus or COVID-19 keywords in their names that are now not showing up. Google disabling search results will certainly make it harder for Android users to find official applications, like Brazilian government's official app that is called 'Coronavirus SUS'.
This decision from Google is clearly not fool proof as it risks official applications not being able to reach the people and there are still ways to get around the disabled search. We have reached out to Google to get a better idea about its plan for implementing efforts to curtail misinformation on the virus outbreak in Play Store, and we will update this report when we hear back.