When news of Peeple, the so-called “Yelp for people” that lets you rate anyone you know like a restaurant, swept the web last year, I was horrified. A tool that lets my abusive ex-boyfriend write whatever he wants about me and post it for the Internet to see? A tool that lets anyone with my cell phone number start my profile on the website without my consent? A tool that sends notifications to my phone without my permission, theoretically allowing my ex to override my block of his number?
In October I wrote a scathing, horrified response that quickly became a cornerstone for the anti-Peeple conversation, “Why Peeple is Dangerous to Survivors, and, Really, Anyone.” I detailed the many ways Peeple could be used as a weapon by abusive exes, or the organized digital mobs who use social media to terrorize women. “There is no way to ‘hack’ the existence of shitty people,” I argued. “Peeple is irresponsible, clueless and tone-deaf technology at its worst.”
The Internet agreed with me, and the creators of Peeple received a unanimous shaming by everyone from Chrissy Teigen to Dr. Phil. But they’re back, claiming to have listened to criticism and fixed their app’s very flawed construction. They say the app is opt-in, meaning people need to join the app and consent to reviews being posted about them, and that they now have the ability to hide their negative reviews. Pointing to their removal of a numerical rating system, they say Peeple is now focused only on positivity.
This is a lie. Peeple is not about positivity. Peeple is also not opt-in. In an interview with the Calgary Herald, co-creator Julia Cordray discussed a feature to be introduced after the app’s initial release called a “truth license.” This paid license, which is a fancy, ridiculous name for a subscription, will allow users to see even hidden reviews the individual has not elected to share. Meaning my ex’s grievances get some airtime. Meaning I do not actually have control of my profile. Meaning my complaints, my fears, my terrors as a survivor were not heard or respected by Julia Cordray and the Peeple team.
The concept of a “truth license” is as stunning as it is distasteful. It’s in the genre of revenge porn and grievance websites—instead of charging victims to have their violations taken down, they’re charging people to read them. While the everyday user may not pay for access to hidden negative reviews, a potential employer will make the investment. Depending on the price, so will parents, college admission boards, journalists, and anyone with morbid curiosity. Either way, irreparable harm has been done to anyone who has experienced harassment, assault or abuse. Peeple has completely dismissed the thousands of women, survivors, and members of other marginalized groups who cited how their app could be used to do significant harm. The launch of their app shows a callousness and a stubbornness that truly boggle the mind.
Not to mention that proceeding with the creation of an app after the entire world tells you that it doesn’t want it—and that’s putting the backlash nicely—brings deranged entitlement to a whole new level.
Many of us will be tempted to download the app today out of curiosity, to know what the hype is about and be part of the conversation, even if only to hate it. Do not download the app. Every download pushes the rating of the app higher in the app store. Every download validates the app—a hate download is still a download. This is not a joke or a Monday trend piece or a new scandal leading to the Internet shaming of its creators (round two). Peeple is dangerous. It is unethical. It is not a joke to the millions of men and women who recognize this app for what it is: a tool in the hands of our abusers, and a gigantic fuck you to our experiences from two rich white ladies from Canada.