Over the past two weeks, the Peeple saga has been a long, confusing one filled with doubletalk and bile.
The Peeple app, currently in development, will allow users to rate one another on a scale of one to five stars and leave comments about each person. It's been commonly referred to as a "Yelp" app for people. Much of the controversy centers around the fact that people who are reviewed cannot opt out of being profiled and cannot delete any of the comments made about them.
When a release was originally announced on Oct. 1, the app was met with overwhelmingly negative comments. Within hours of its announcement, the Facebook group "People against Peeple" was launched. As of Oct. 9, it has received 206 likes. The page was started by Las Vegas based business owner Robert Kessler.
"What kind of piqued my interest in this was that I feel we live in a very judgmental society," he said.
Years ago, Kessler ran a business in Beverley Hills. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he lost his standing in the community. Despite his innocence, he found it incredibly hard to bounce back in California, so he moved to Las Vegas for a fresh start. Kessler worries that with an app like Peeple on the market, second chances like his will be much harder to achieve.
- Photo courtesy of LinkedIn
- Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray, founders of the Peeple app.
Co-founder and CEO Julia Cordray labeled Peeple as a positivity app, designed to lift people up. However, on Oct. 5 People against Peeple, a Facebook group opposed to the app, posted a video of Cordray in which she admitted that the app was also about finding out the negatives about people.
"We want to know, did he steal from you? Did she steal from you?" she says in the video. "These are the things I think are more valuable in knowing versus little, egocentric things. We don't live in a candy land."
Some critics took to Peeple's Facebook page and rated CEO and co-founder Julia Cordray based on her appearance in pictures. Those who rated Julia said they were trying to show her the kind of cyberbullying they feared would become common if the app was released.
On Oct. 2, an administrator for the app's page posted a status, asking if anyone knew how to keep negative comments from appearing on a company's Facebook page. This post received comments pointing to the irony of the situation.
Cordray asserts that this was done on purpose, to show how current social media has failed to prevent cyberbullying.
"What is so ironic is we haven't even done anything, we haven't even launched an app," she said. "And we have all these people bullying us because they're scared of a bullying app. That's so ironic I can't even begin to express that."
Cordray believes that cyberbullying comes from the anonymity granted by the way some social media platforms are set up.
"With our app, you have to talk to each other," she said. "If you have something to say that is negative, you will have to face the person and you are not anonymous."
Cordray also says that users must be 21 or older to use the app. However, the concern over cyberbullying still remains.
Neil Perdue, associate professor at the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, specializes in human development. He says the kind of bullying this app could make possible would be very damaging to a person of any age. He said studies indicate between 40 and 50 percent of people have admitted to making comments online that they would normally not make in person.
"Even when we're behaving badly, there's a feedback loop and we start to see the effects of what we're doing on someone else," he said. "Sometimes that will encourage people to kind of taper off what they're doing."
Perdue says that feedback loop is interrupted when the message is sent over a computer.
According to the Megan Meier Foundation, in 2009 71.9 percent of high school students reported being cyberbullied once or twice in a single year. 19.6 percent have reported being cyberbullied at least once or twice a month, and 3.1 percent reported that they have been the victims of cyberbullying on a daily basis.
On the same day People against Peeple posted their video of Cordray, she announced that the app was being redesigned so that it would not allow negative comments and would require consent from the people reviewed.
Although Peeple's Facebook page and Twitter accounts have since been deleted, their website ForthePeeple.com is still up, and uses the hashtag #oct12.
Cordray has promised the app will launch in early November, despite the negative feedback.