Controversial People-Rating App, Peeple, Prepares for Launch

Controversial People-Rating App, Peeple, Prepares for Launch

A new app expected to launch in November is generating a lot of mostly negative buzz following a recent story published in The Washington Post. In fact, the headline of that very article refers to the forthcoming app, Peeple, as “terrifying.”

False and Defamatory Peeple ReviewsPeeple, according to the article, is described as “basically Yelp, but for humans.” Yes, on Peeple – much like the online review giant Yelp – someone can give another person a one-, two-, three-, four- or five-star rating.

“We feel this is the ultimate social experiment,” co-founder and Calgary native Julia Cordray told the Calgary Herald last month.

Naturally, much of the reaction to the news of Peeple has not been positive.

While it is not uncommon for someone to (shallowly and in an objectifying manner) give another person a numeric rating in conversation with friends, it would seem to take it to another level to rate someone such that it becomes part of his or her permanent record online.

In fact, this is reminiscent of a couple scenes from the movie “The Social Network,” which portrays the creation of Facebook. First, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) was seen creating Facebook’s predecessor, Facemash, which allowed students to rate follow students based on attractiveness. Second, Zuckerberg’s recent ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) — in response to an insulting blog post he published about her — told Zuckerberg: “The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.”

But Cordray and her co-founder, Nicole McCullough, say they intend Peeple to highlight people’s positives. After all, positive ratings will go live immediately. Negative ratings, on the other hand, go in a queue for 48 hours. This allows the subjects of the ratings to contest them (if someone is not registered with Peeple and, thus, cannot object to a negative rating, it will not post).

Further, Peeple – which requires users to be 21, have an “established Facebook account (whatever that entails) and to post using their real names” – will not tolerate bullying or shaming.

But we have previously written about apps that were developed with good intentions yet were not bullying-free. And those were anonymous apps.

Certainly, by requiring people to affirm that they truly “know” the reviewees and post using their real names – assuming there is some way to weed out people creating fake profiles just to post on Peeple – that can help mitigate the potential harm. The comments sections of news publications, for example, are generally cleaner when people are posting through their own Facebook profiles and not anonymously or pseudonymously.

But that is not to say that it will stop someone – perhaps an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend – from publishing a harmful (and possibly defamatory) review and accompanying rating, in particularly in the heat of the moment.

A person can submit another individual to the Peeple database by providing that other person’s cell phone number (to prove he or she knows this person) when attempting to post a preview. But according to The Washington Post article, there is currently no way to opt out (or, perhaps, off) of the app.

Cordray did, however, tell the publication that they would delay Peeple’s launch if its beta testers were to demand that Peeple add an opt-out feature.

Surely, the intent of Peeple’s founders is a positive one, seeking to help people conduct research for everyday life activities. But as The Washington Post article points out, the concept very clearly favors and values information over individuals. And how important is it really to rate a neighbor or co-worker? Common sense would indicate that more damage than good is likely to come from many reviews/ratings.

Further, the app will not be set up such that people can delete bad reviews. However, they can report inaccurate information, Cordray told The Washington Post. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the Peeple team handles instances of false and defamatory reviews. Its rules will reportedly already prohibit profanity, sexism, and private health conditions.

Another thing to keep an eye on will be whether the app will rank highly in desktop search results, in particular individual ratings pages. Of course, in instances of positive ratings and reviews, a rated and reviewed individual might not be bothered to see a Peeple profile near the top of his or search results on Google or Bing. But someone rated and reviewed unfavorably will most certainly not want people to search them online and stumble upon a negative Peeple profile.

The fact of the matter is that there is still much unknown about the app. However, we will monitor Peeple as it rolls out and post about any relevant new information.

For more information, contact 855.542.9192 or internetdefamation@vorys.com. Read more about the practice at www.internetdefamationlaw.com.

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UPDATE (from co-founder Julia Cordray): “I Became a Trending Topic for the Wrong Reasons. Here’s Why We need Peeple, the Positivity App I’m Building”