These sites have mostly focused on transactions in the commercial space, however a new player in the field is about to open the door on a platform intended for reviews of people. The platform, known as Peeple, was recently featured in the Washington Post and is expected to launch in November.
However, the wisdom of giving users a platform to specifically comment on other people on the internet seems to ignore both legal realities regarding online defamation and the actual way people use these platforms. In short, people are significantly more likely to post negative things than they are likely to post positive information. While the company may take steps to insulate itself from the actions of its users, individual posters may find themselves exposed to legal liability for the things they post. Furthermore, individuals with little interest in being featured on the site may become the target of false, defamatory statements.
How Will Peeple Work?
Media commentators have characterized Peeple as “Yelp for humans.” When the app launches, it bills itself as an easy way for people to rate anyone in their life. While many will use the review service to positively rate co-workers, friends, family members, and colleagues other may have more nefarious purposes. Some people may end up using Peeple to negatively rate ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, or former friends. Others may use the platform in more of a guerilla-like fashion. Remember that businessman that cut you in line at the local coffee shop and then paid with his credit card? A user could theoretically post a review about this individual if he or she has already been reviewed on the site. Now, a single perceived wrong or slight to another can have consequences that reach far beyond the relationship or the encounter.
While Peeple claims that it will remove inaccurate reviews upon user request, there is no guarantee that it will do so or if its policies and procedures will be sufficient. The company has already stated that users will not be able to opt-out. That is, if someone wishes to write a review about you and has your cell phone number, you will be featured on the website. Furthermore, users cannot delete their profile even if they do not want to be listed on the site. Users are also not permitted to remove inaccurate or biased reviews themselves.
While there is a certain interest in the aggregate data collected from platforms like Yelp and Peeple, there is no doubt that such sites can cause immense harm to average individuals. To start with, there is the problem of self-selection. That is, people are most likely to leave a review when they have an overwhelmingly negative experience whether it is real or perceived. People are also more likely to leave reviews due to a strongly positive experience – but not as likely due to a negative experience.
Furthermore, when it comes to rating people the concept of subjectivity is also highly relevant. Depending on our culture, background, and upbringing we may interpret actions in a certain way or fail to see certain things that are obvious to another person. In a sense, review sites can often reveal more about the reviewer than the reviewee. Furthermore, individuals who are charismatic, young, and attractive are more likely to be perceived favorably regardless of their actions. For a platform that intends to rate the character of people, these are troubling problems.
And what about the problem of defamation? The truth is that people are free to post whatever they would like to the platform. If the platform were to catch-on, every social interaction then becomes a public performance subject to the same bullying and nefarious dealings that go on with every ratings site and community. Except in this case rather than targeting businesses, the reviews on this site will target actual people. False statements and allegations can have serious and long-lasting effects on one’s opportunities, professional standing, community standing, and nearly every aspect of one’s life. When it comes to something as subjective as rating a human being, it is best to stick to the facts. But, if past social media review sites are any indication, many reviewers will have extreme difficulty in doing so.
Are You Being Targeted or Defamed Online?
If you are being targeted by others online with false or defamatory allegations, attorney Aaron Minc can fight for you and work to stop the abuse. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation to discuss the damaging online slander or libel you are facing call us at (216) 373-7706 or contact us online.