Controversial app Peeple has become its own worst critic


The Killers once vaguely quoted Hunter S. Thompson with, “Are we human, or are we dancer?” Contrastingly, the Calgary-based mobile app Peeple asked upon its inception, ‘are we human, or are we restaurants?’ But after a storm of outrage and criticism, as The Guardian reported on October 6, the app has been completely overhauled to remove its controversial aspects. It leaves an empty shell of an app behind.

Originally, Peeple allowed people to rate other people similar to how restaurants are rated on apps like Yelp. There would have been a 48-hour period before negative reviews would be made public to allow the parties involved to work out the issues that would have lead to the negative review.

This window would also have allowed the person making the review an opportunity to change their initial negative review to a positive one. Finally, as a way to reduce needless harassment, the app would have required users to login using their Facebook and to provide a contact number.

Unfortunately, this has all been changed. The app now only allows for positive reviews, and this is undoubtedly a bad thing. If you want someone to always tell you that you’re a perfect human no matter what, you’d do best to call your mother. It is a universal truth that not everybody is going to like you.

While the idea of rating other people on a system that is solely based on subjective factors may seem somewhat repellent, it’s actually something that we do everyday. Yet in our daily lives we aren’t given the opportunity to learn what other people don’t like about us, and we can’t grow based on their criticism.

While the idea of rating other people on an app seems somewhat repellent, it’s actually something that we do everyday.

While the Internet is known for shady message boards, subreddits, Twitter feuds, and whatever else, most of these forums are anonymous. Peeple, in its original state, aimed to remove this anonymity. While it would have been possible to create a fake Facebook account and phone number to review a person, the person on the receiving end of that review would know that the reviewer is not an actual person. This would have allowed the receiver to either call reviewer out, or write a response to the negative review.

While the criticisms that caused the app to change were rooted in the ability to give another person a negative review, the issue seems to be less about the app and more a symptom of our current societal state. There is now a distinct trend towards praising people for the slightest things they do, while preventing them from experiencing the harsh realities of failure.

The real world doesn’t allow for this to happen 100 per cent of the time. In reality, nobody cares that you remembered to clean your cat’s litter box, and your boss doesn’t care that you had insomnia if you slept in and missed that conference call with Japan. Many times, when you do something that you are supposed to do, you won’t receive praise. Likewise, when you fail at something, oftentimes you are not allowed make up for it.

Peeple tried to toughen us up by removing some of the bubble wrap that society has placed around itself. Unfortunately, it was suffocated by our society, and became chronically nice instead of honest.

So until another app tries to challenge this mentality, we can only hope to distinguish between whether we are human or dancer.


  1. Speaking as someone who has worked with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, this app scared the crap out of me. If a client’s ex used their phone number to create a profile for them, the ex could use that profile as a very effective tool of abuse. It is all too easy for a perpetrator to use that 48 hour hold on a negative comment as leverage/blackmail.

    Furthermore, this app as it was initially proposed, could have had devastating professional consequences for me. Those of who work as mental health professionals, public defenders, child advocates, educators, advocates, and various flavors of social service professional have to be *very* careful about what information is available about us on the Internet. There are strict ethical guidelines we have to follow about how much we self-disclose. Even a positive review about our social lives could ruin our careers… And cause some major headaches for ethics review boards all over the world.

    Lastly, people who are not out at work about some aspect of their personal life, be it related to gender, sexuality, or even a hobby they just don’t want a coworker to find out about, could be seriously compromised by this app.

    Therefore, I strongly disagree with your thesis that stifling this app was about coddling society. Genuine accountability requires trust and vulnerability. The original Peeple concept completely disregarded this, and threatened to strip people of informed consent about how their personal information was shared.

    • While that 48 hour hold on negative comments is gone from the idea. I hadn’t thought of it being used by an abuser who knows your phone number. But they would need to have that phone to respond to a text message and enter a code in the new idea. But the abuser could make a fake Facebook Profile which is easy to do, and use a burner phone to create a profile for someone else. But no to worry. the makers are delusional and have been pushing back the launch, now it is December. But that will come and go and there will be no app.

  2. I agree with Samantha’s comment, online bullying had already caused so many problems for young people especially. If this app went through with its original plan a lot of people would have another platform of which to use to bully innocent people, the idea could work if people had a choice to be on the app or not but the fact that they wanted to make it that anybody who had your number could make a profile for you, makes it a horrible concept. Imagine a bitter ex makes a profile for you, even with the 48 hours to change the review, I don’t think the ex would want to too, weather it was true or not.

  3. The backlash had nothing to do with negative reviews. People can say what they want about me, I don’t really care. I know me, and that’s all that matters. What concerned people the most was exposing personal information without permission. It’s on par with doxing and malicious breach of privacy at best.

  4. I think you quite missed the point there. No, the backlash wasn’t rooted in the ability to leave negative reviews. The backlash had to do with people being signed up for the app (and their information being given to it) without them even knowing and the founder openly discussing selling said data – given without any consent whatsoever – to third parties. (And that the founder dealt with the criticism in an incredibly unprofessional manner, aggravated people some more.)