Digital life: Why Peeple app fell foul of its own ratings
A person-scoring application has abruptly shuttered its social media sites after being met with a wave of negative reaction, but its creators say they're undeterred. So what was it, asks Katie Wright, that made it so unpopular?
When Julia Cordray gave an interview to the Washington Post hoping to drum up some publicity for her new app, she probably didn't imagine she would become the target of death threats and mass of online abuse - not least because the app was billed as "the positive revolution".
A kind of TripAdvisor for human beings, Peeple lets users rate people they know professionally, personally or romantically, in order to let others assess their suitability as potential employees, housemates, educators or dates.
While the platform, which is currently in beta, prohibits unruly conduct such as profanity and sexism, a deluge of abuse quickly poured in on social media, focusing on how the app could easily be used for harassment and cyberbullying.
The founders tried to stem the tide by deleting negative comments, but eventually the site's Facebook and Twitter pages were suspended, while the website (www.forthepeople.com) remains active with a button tempting visitors to join the waiting list.
Cordray has since broken her silence with two posts on LinkedIn, the first denying reports the app was actually a hoax and insisting "Peeple is a positive-only app".
In the second, which is primarily a job ad for a chief technical officer, the CEO admits she is "humbled to admit that previous versions of Peeple's policies were ill-conceived", and clarifies a number of changes to the site in light of the feedback they've received.
Users will not be able to create accounts on behalf of anyone else, they can delete their accounts at any time and reject anything written about them (previously, negative comments would be posted automatically after a 48-hour wait).
Sounds a lot like Peeple's approach to its own reviews, doesn't it?
At the time of going to press, Peeple's social media pages were still down, while Cordray's latest missive promises the site will continue in beta testing until November.
But, when it is unveiled properly, can this human feedback mechanism possibly survive such a colossal wave of bad press?
Even if it does attract enough earnest users, since the internet at large was so quick to jump on the Peeple-bashing bandwagon, it seems likely trolls will flock to the site to deliver more reviews of its founder as soon as they can - and it'll be back to hitting delete repeatedly for Julia Cordray.