Arizona-based developer Dapper Gentlemen is grinning over its app Ugly Meter, which is being touted as an alleged “Bully Tool.” Ugly Meter has reached the 3 million downloads mark in the iTunes app store and shows no sign of slowing down.
As the app gains popularity, parental groups and media outlets alike are outraged that the app, which takes a picture and scans it using facial recognition, generates derogatory and hurtful comments based on your “ugliness score.”
“Your face looks like it was in the dryer with a bunch of rocks,” it might say, or, “When you walk pass a bathroom, the toilet flushes.” These remarks and photos can then be posted on social media networks like Facebook or Twitter, possibly without the victim knowing.
Stephen Balkam, CEO of Washington-based Family Online Safety Institute, told the New York Post: “I can see that the guys who programmed it were having a bit of fun and all … If you’re 25, 26 or 28, this sort of thing could be quite funny or amusing. But in the hands of a 14- or 15-year-old, it could be quite the reverse.”
Now that the Ugly Meter has reached the 3 million users mark, bullies are allegedly using it nationwide in many of our public schools, most likely under the radar of school administrators and staff.
The Harvard Crimson posits that the key is not censorship, but education. “The existence of the Ugly Meter application does make clear the increased need to educate kids about technology as the age at which individuals are exposed to the Internet and applications steadily becomes younger … In the school environment, educators should also look out for their students’ well-being.”
Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, author of “Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media,” seems to agree. “There’s a fine line between teasing and razzing one another … [This app] is just hurtful. It could have crushing blows on kids with low self-esteem. There’s just nothing good that could come from an app like this.”
Awareness Technologies, a cyber-tool development company that many parents use to monitor their child’s online activities, issued a warning to parents, saying, “A newly released $0.99 iPhone app called ‘The Ugly Meter’ is the latest tool that creates opportunities for cyber-bullying, the online pandemic causing severe emotional and psychological pain to children across the nation … Apps like The Ugly Meter are ripe for cyberbullies to use in tormenting their peers.”
So far the creators of the app insist that its purpose is for “fun” and “humorous purposes.” One of the creators, Jo Overline, remarked to news outlets: “All of our insults are PG-rated. We kept it pretty clean on purpose. There will always be bullies out there and we can’t control what they do. Parents need to take responsibility for their own children and stop trying to blame the media.”