Why Peeple Might Be Internet’s Worst Hoax Ever

Peeple, or the people-rating app that has been responsible for kicking up internet’s latest controversy just this past week, has retracted all its online traces. The “terrifying” app, as it was termed by a report in the Washington Post on September 30, sought to rate people on their interactions with other people, a la Yelp. There were credible rumors about some of the stranger aspects of the app, like you could not log off once you had logged in, akin to the Matrix, or that there was a 48-hour waiting period if you wanted to delete unfavorable comments about yourself. Peeple was an app which would turn you into a commodity, thus was the consensus, and it would turn internet into a paradise for trollers.

Not surprisingly, then, even though it was still in its nascent stages, Peeple was dismantled by real people in a jiff, who called for its creators to call the whole thing off, some even leaving death threats in case the founders did not take the public denouncement of the app all too seriously.

But Julia Cordray, one of the founders of the app, did not back down. According to the New York Times, Cordray reiterated her desire not to be “shamed into submission.” She wrote an open letter on LinkedIn, describing Peeple as a “positive only app.” In an essay she published two days ago, she sought to fix the negative image of Peeple, saying it was still in line for a late November release.

“There is one thing I must tell you; this has always been a positivity app. Peeple will not be a tool to tell other humans how horrible they are. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world.”

Which, of course, totally contradicts what she said about Peeple back in August.

“…it’s important to know the negative too. I wouldn’t want this app to just be positive. We wanna know, did he steal from you, did she steal from you, were they abusive, do they have anger issues, do they lie all the time, are they narcissistic, I mean, these are the things that I think are more valuable in knowing versus little egocentric things… we don’t live in a fairy-tale land, this isn’t candy-land where we just wanna know the best in everybody, I think this app does really help to know and find the best in each of us, find the good in each of us… but it would be pointless if it was all positive.”

Peeple's co-founder has retracted her earlier statements and emphasized that she intends Peeple to be a "positivity" app. (Photo: YouTube)

In any case, now, a week after showing its ugly face to the world, Peeple stands at crossroads. Its web and social media presence has disappeared into obscurity, as BBC News reported, and quiet murmurs about the app “being the most elaborate internet hoax” ever pulled have been doing the rounds on the internet.

Snopes.com, a rumor-debunking site, published a report in the aftermath of the Peeple outrage, stopping just short of terming the entire thing as a hoax. According to the report, Peeple was a virtually unknown entity before the Washington Post published its report after an interview with Julia. Peeple’s traces could not be found on Google, or any of the other search engines, and it seemed pretty nigh impossible that an app as complex as Peeple could be built in three months.

Newsweek, drawing heavily from the Snopes report, went on to question the legitimacy of Peeple in more explicit terms. According to a report published on its online platform, Peeple was never patented in the U.S. or Canada, so just how did Julia Cordray or her co-founder decide to start a company? The answer, of course, is still shrouded in mystery, giving weight to the rumors that Peeple might be a hoax after all.

In response to the theory, Julia Cordray went on to say in her essay that Peeple was real, though its portrayal in the digital world was certainly a hoax. But after the way she has been retracting and changing her statements over the last few months, could she be taken seriously at all?

Peeple might well be real, but it would come as a greater relief to the general public (those who do not want to be accomplices in making the internet a voyeuristic paradise) if Julia Cordray came out and said the entire thing was a hoax. And if Peeple is indeed a hoax, it will surely go on to etch its name in the consciousness of the people as one of the worst hoaxes the internet has ever pulled.

[Image via Peeple]