October 20, 2015
“Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects — make that objects — of Cordray’s app, her thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person.” – Caitlin Dewey (Washington Post)
“Character is Destiny,” the motto of the soon-to-be released mobile app that allows you to rate people, has seemed to pivot back on the founders to answer to controversy. Scheduled for release in November 2015, the app has been dubbed “Yelp for people” and will allow people to review other people in a similar way you can review businesses on Yelp.
Founded by Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray, the app has received venture funding that has valued the app at approximately $7.6 million. However, a recent article about the app in The Washington Post has caused a wave of backlash for the co-founders.
Originally intended to scrape Facebook profiles to populate people’s names in the app, the founders had to scrap the idea as Facebook’s API would not allow it. Peeple then switched to allowing users to create profiles of others as long as the user knows the person’s cell phone, have a Facebook account, be 21 years of age or older, and make a review under their real name.
Real people took to Twitter to express their outrage over the app. Including how you would be unable to remove your profile by opting out, once a profile had been created. Facebook also quickly filled up with comments, sparking Cordray to ask how to prevent people from doing so. Of course, there were plenty of comments to deal with, including from @sharonodea who said, “an app designed to collect unsolicited feedback doesn’t appear to like unsolicited feedback.” Touché, Sharon!
Cordray appeared on Dr. Phil in October 2015 to discuss the backlash the app has received and the changes that have been implemented based on the feedback. According to Cordray, people must now opt-in to the app and assured Dr. Phil that your profile could not be started by someone else. A sharp contrast from what was originally intended. During the interview, Dr. Phil revealed that Cordray wanted to steer the line of questioning with the show, outing her in front of the audience and viewers.
“Now I’m thinking, you can’t possibly be that naïve,” said Dr. Phil. “You want people to go on the Internet and write anything they want, but when you came here you wanted to edit the show, review the show and control all the questions I was going to ask you. Are you kidding me?”
On October 18, 2015, Peeple’s Wikipedia page was also trolled with a user making a comment that, “the creators of this app do not realize the stupidity of it and have deluded themselves into thinking that a dystopian future does not lie in the wait where holder of 5 meow meow beanz command the lower ranked.” Of course, I am not sure that “meow meow beanz” are going to be used as part of the app but time will tell.
For the time being, it appears that Peeple has transitioned into a different format than originally planned, one that The Next Web calls “completely pointless.” Either way, it appears that the app is still not in the good graces of many who still troll it on a daily basis. So while we wait to see what the final product will be, hopefully the founders will take their experience as victims of cyberbullying into account to ensure that it doesn’t happen with others on the app.
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