Last year, the founders of Sketchfactor were accused of racism, as the app allowed users to rate New York City neighborhoods based on its perceived "sketchiness." Another app, Operation GroupMe, is now stirring similar concerns.
The messaging app used by merchants and local authorities in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was launched in March 2014 in hopes of lowering incidents of shoplifting — however, its user activity shows racial bias against African-American shoppers, the Washington Post reports. Georgetown is a predominately white neighborhood that offers high-end stores and boutiques, but shopping while Black in this area may mean you'll end up on this app unknowingly.
Since it launched, users have uploaded photos of more than 230 shoppers who are mostly African-American. It is still unclear whether Operation GroupMe has helped lower crime for the merchants. Some of the messages sent on the app include:
“Suspicious shoppers in store,” an American Apparel retailer said in April last year. “3 female. 1 male strong smell of weed. All African American. Help please.”
“What did they look like?” a True Religion employee in May last year asked an American Apparel retailer who had reported a theft. “Ratchet,” the American Apparel worker replied, using a slang term for trashy that often has a racial connotation. “Lol.”
“Suspicious tranny in store at Wear,” reported one worker at Hu’s Wear in May. “AA male as female. 6ft 2. Broad shoulders.” Tranny is offensive slang for transgender.
Read full the report here.
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