Only days away from its October launch, Peeple, a new app dubbed “Yelp for people,” was redesigned by co-founders Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray in response to heavy backlash. Though the two women have consistently claimed that their aim for the app has always been to “spread positivity,” Peeple was initially a platform that encouraged the objectification of individuals.

Peeple was designed to allow users to review and rate any individual that they know personally, professionally or romantically out of five stars. The definition of “know” in this context was vague, as there was no mention of how the app would determine a relationship between the reviewer and the subject of the review.

Unlike almost all social media platforms, Peeple was designed to not let the user control the content posted about them. Anyone could have been reviewed on Peeple. No registration or consent would have been necessary, though negative comments would have been withheld for a period of 48 hours—time given to resolve any conflicts before posts went public on the web. If someone had something to say, there would have been no way to avoid unsolicited criticism.

Peeple quickly attracted negative attention, and many characterized the app as a platform where people would be openly judged, possibly by people who may not even know them that well. In a tweet directed at Cordray, Twitter user @TheTalena asked, “Hasn’t there been enough quantifying and objectifying [sic] human life?” Comparing Peeple to Yelp implies that the people being rated and reviewed are being promoted as products. The one detail the creators got right from the start was a precaution against anonymity: users have to use their names when writing a review.  

The intentions of the app’s founders have also been found to be unclear. In an interview with CBC back in September, Cordray explained: “You should have the right to know who somebody is before you invite them into your home, around your children. They become your neighbours, they teach your kids, you go on dates with them." This premise presented Peeple as what seemed like an odd and unnecessary hybrid of dating sites like Tinder, job search sites like LinkedIn and social media sites like Facebook. The difference, however, was that Peeple would not leave the user in control of their own profile.

Fortunately, these features will now no longer be a part of the app when it launches. An individual cannot be reviewed or rated without their explicit permission and users are not allowed to post negative comments about other individuals. This comes as a huge relief to everyone, but the app’s shift begs the question: what is the app’s purpose now? On the changes made to Peeple, Cordray wrote on LinkedIn, “I want the world to be positive and this is how I’m going to inspire it by creating the world’s largest positivity app.” Thankfully, internet outcry has helped avert what would have been a disaster of an app. There is no way of knowing for sure, however, until the app is launched on October 12.

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