Peeple CEO Julia Cordray had already started a storm on social media with the announcement of the Peeple app, which will allow people to leave reviews of each other in public, in a similar way as Yelp does for businesses. The storm got much worse when it turned out that Peeple was having trouble moderating their own Facebook page, and in fact, Julia wasn’t quite so keen on people leaving public feedback, after all.
— Sharon O'Dea (@sharonodea) October 1, 2015
The Peeple CEO has removed the offending post, according to the Register, who also raise the concern that if Peeple aren’t even able to keep on top of a Facebook page facing some controversial comments, one has to be concerned for any Peeple users who face similar attacks through their proposed system.
Vox proposes that given the failure of platforms that have attempted something akin to Peeple’s model in the past have failed, it’s unlikely that Peeple itself will be a success. As a consequence, we shouldn’t be concerned. It is also reported that the platform may not be an easy one to use for slander and stalking because of the built-in protections and ratings system. Oh, and you can’t leave Peeple either.
However, the system is reported to depend on automation, and the rating that is given by the reviewer to filter negative reviews. Anyone who’s looked deeply into some of the reviews that make it through as real business ratings will see that this is easily gamed. One could leave a carefully worded negative review with five-stars and it would be difficult for any automated system like Peeple to filter it out. As Reuters reported in July, algorithms struggle with issues of positivity and negativity sometimes, especially when sarcasm is used. Peeple would face similar challenges when attempting to filter messages.
In response to the barrage of negativity on social media, the Peeple CEO posted an “Ode to Courage” on the official Peeple website.
“Innovators are often put down because people are scared and they don’t understand. We are bold innovators and sending big waves into motion and we will not apologize for that because we love you enough to give you this gift. We know you are amazing, special, and unique individuals and most likely would never shout that from the rooftops. The people who know you will though … they choose to be around you and in your life and support you even when you don’t like yourself. We have come so far as a society but in a digital world we are becoming so disconnected and lonely. You deserve better and to have more abundance, joy, and real authentic connections. You deserve to make better decisions with more information to protect your children and your biggest assets. You have worked so hard to get the reputation you have among the people that know you. As innovators we want to make your life better and have the opportunity to prove how great it feels to be loved by so many in a public space. We are a positivity app launching in November 2015. Whether you love us or our concept or not; we still welcome everyone to explore this online village of love and abundance for all.”
The Independent couldn’t disagree more, describing the Peeple app as “a new way for the internet to destroy your life.” The reporter focuses on the typically “over the top” comments, either positive or negative, that reviewing apps and platforms typically generate, and concludes that it’s as if Peeple is a naive creation of a team that has never “seen the internet.”
There has also been a backlash from many communities where privacy is important. The possibility of someone being “outed” online before they were ready is a distinct danger created by apps like Peeple.
The Los Angeles Times analyses the bias often found in online review sites and concludes that Peeple is “inherently invasive, even when complimentary” as well as, they note, “objectifying and reductive in the manner of all online reviews.”
The sad thing to note is that while Peeple may choose to respond to public attacks by one day closing the app, an individual slandered on Peeple may one day choose to close the door on their life — something we’ve sadly seen with isolated teens, bullied online, in the past.
[Image Sources: Peeple Facebook, Peeple Terms and Conditions]