5 Apps That Have Rampant Discrimination Built In
Technology was supposed to be the great leveler -- the thing that brought all of us together on an equal playing field and improved all of our lives. And it did that, in the sense that we now have the ability to stalk our exes and decide how much hotter we are than their new boyfriend or girlfriend. But in other areas, technology has really let us down. Specifically, the brave new world of apps. You probably have a couple dozen sitting innocently on your phone right now, not realizing the havoc they are just waiting to cause.
Tinder Charges Premium Users More Based On Their Age
Tinder is unashamedly the dating app for people who hate reading and let their genitalia do most of the thinking. You base your left or right swipes on how hot the person's picture is and basically nothing more, because some people don't need to know you love Star Wars and Harry Potter (just like everyone else in the world) before they decide they want to bone you.
"She's obviously into ... triangles? That works. Whatever."
But in March of 2015, the previously completely free app brought in a new Tinder Plus subscription model, which had extra features. You could undo a swipe, in case you missed a hunk and had to one day tell your grandkids about that super-hot guy you never got to sleep with. You could change your location with the new Passport feature, so you could always find people to bang no matter where you traveled in your desperate search for companionship. And you could have unlimited swipes, letting you like every single picture in the hopes that someone, anyone, would like you back.
But there was a catch: There were two different price levels for Plus, and how much you paid depended on how old you were. People under 30 get charged $9.99 per month, while those who have passed that birthday need to shell out double that, at $19.99. (In Europe, the age limit was 28, which I assume means they think Europeans are two years uglier than Americans.)
This is what wine and cigarettes does to the average 29-year-old Frenchwoman.
The company's co-founder explained the pricing difference by saying that they needed to charge younger people less since they have less money in general. But we all know that's bullshit, because it doesn't explain why they have to charge older people more. My theory? They are totally playing on the fears of people who have hit the big 3-0 and aren't married or in relationships. This is a dating app looking you in the eye, telling you that you are an old maid, and then making you pay for the privilege of hearing that.
Uber And Lyft Screw Over Women And African-Americans
Everyone who has been to a big city knows the stereotype of a black man in a suit waiting ages for a taxi to stop for him, while some scruffy white guy holds out his hand and gets one on the first try. We've come to expect racism as part of a cabbie's inner being. But now that we have Uber and Lyft cars driven by open-minded millennials, that is all behind us.
How scholars will record this time in automotive history.
You read the title, so of course it's not. According to two different studies, if the driver of a ridesharing app can figure out that the person they are a about to give a lift to is African-American (either through their name or picture), they are more likely to try to screw that person over.
One of the studies by MIT, Stanford University, and the University of Washington compared over 1,400 trips in Seattle and Boston using randomly selected times, days, and routes. No matter when or where the trip took place, African-American passengers were left to wait up to 35 percent longer before the driver arrived. That was if the driver picked them up at all, because black riders were also much more likely to have their car cancel on them after a pickup was confirmed. However, some drivers were sneaky in their racism. Since Uber and Lyft punish drivers who cancel too many rides, some of them would go to the wrong pickup point in order to try to get the rider to cancel out of frustration.
I suggest using Beyonce's Lemonade technique.
Uber and Lyft drivers also manage to be extra creepy with women passengers. Unlike black passengers, male drivers were absolutely fine with having women in their cars ... to the point where they seemed unwilling to let them leave. Female passengers were subjected to longer trips than necessary, often going through the same intersection more than once or past their drop-off point. They also reported that male drivers were extremely chatty on these drives. Basically, some men see a woman in their car as a literal captive audience who must stay there and let him flirt with her until he's ready to drop her off or she decides to throw open the door and desperately roll into traffic. It would be pathetic if it wasn't for the fact that some drivers have actually kidnapped and assaulted women. It's almost as if a business of cars being driven by random strangers who never had to be fingerprinted or get a background check was a stupid idea.
Airbnb Is Just The Worst For Everyone
We've told you before fo how Airbnb is a hotbed of racism. If you try to use the service while black, either as a renter or a rentee, you are going to find that people seem to think you are the King Midas of cooties, turning everything you touch into something icky. How else do you explain the fact that when black people try to rent out their homes of similar sizes in similar locations to white people, they have to charge 12 percent less to get anyone to bite? Or that when people with "stereotypical" black names apply to rent a place, they are turned down more often than people with "white" names? Renters would even rather let their houses sit empty, thus losing money, than rent to black people in some cases.
But it doesn't stop there. Even if a black person manages to get someone to rent to them, they can end up being the victim of discrimination once they show up. That's what Ronnia Cherry and Stefan Grant found when they got a place in Atlanta in 2014. Their vacation was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of cops at the front door, guns drawn. A neighbor had seen some black people entering the security code, had a flashback to everything their grandmother had told them in 1952, and assumed they must be thieves.
To be fair, they were dressed like this.
But it isn't just African-Americans who find themselves being discriminated against. The travel journalist Rafat Ali says he has been turned down for being "a brown Muslim guy." And sometimes race doesn't even have anything to do with it! Sometimes it is just good old-fashioned homophobia! That's what Buddy Fisher found out in August, when his host asked him why he was coming to Austin and he responded that he was attending the Pride festival. An hour later, his reservation was canceled, because the guy whose house he was going to stay at wanted "No LGBT people, please. I do not support people who are against humanity. Sorry."
(As an Austinite myself, I would just like to say that this guy is a douche who does not represent our lovely city. We love LGBT people, and please consider taking us with you when your liberal state secedes from the Union.)
We'll be like a really quirky West Berlin.
And then there is Shadi Petosky, who recently tweeted that she was turned down for a place because she is transgender. Right now, Airbnb removes hosts one by one if they get complaints, and they are constantly updating their nondiscrimination policy because people keep finding ways to be awful. It's like discrimination whack-a-mole. Next time, just pay the extra couple bucks and stay in a hotel.
Mobile Games Take Advantage Of Addicted "Whales"
Even people who don't play traditional video games like playing mobile games. Now, instead of having to read a magazine in the doctor's office or stare at commuters' ugly faces on public transport, you can whip out your phone and play a couple dozen rounds of Candy Crush. And if you are like most of the population, you will use your free turns and then wait patiently for your friends to send you some, or for the clock to fill them back up. But if you are one of the increasing number of people who spends money in-game for lives and other perks, game companies want to get you addicted. They want to turn you into a "whale."
And not just in the game.
They do this by using tricks to get you to become loyal to their game and then charging you for things you need. But depending on how often you pay and how good you are at the game, you might be spending a different amount of money on the same perk as someone else. Game makers even work with companies that specialize in making algorithms so they know just how much to charge each player and the right time to do it. Math: You tried to leave it behind in high school, and now it's back for revenge.
Do you want to watch as the seconds of your life drain away, or do you want to spend 99 cents?
That means that if you have never paid for something before and are having trouble beating a level, the game might suddenly slash the price on an item that will help you so that you don't get frustrated and stop playing. But if you are a "whale" who spends $50-$100 a month on the game, you might suddenly find yourself paying more for things like lives. Basically, in order to get more casual players who might one day turn into serious players who shell out hard cash, games punish those who are already serious players with higher prices. But hey, if you're paying, at least you get to be a complete dick to the poor customer support workers.
SketchFactor Was The Worst Idea Ever
Sometimes, white people are in a new town or city. They'll be walking around when suddenly they find themselves in an unfamiliar neighborhood -- a neighborhood where people don't look like them. They are usually a few shades darker. Suddenly, they feel unsafe. It's not the color of the people, obviously -- it's just that something about the neighborhood is ... sketchy. Uh-oh, hapless (but ultimately redeemable) white people. Whatever will they do? If only they'd had some way of knowing, of avoiding such places ...
Not the heroes we need, but probably the ones we deserve.
That was the theory behind the (now thankfully defunct) app SketchFactor. Created by two white millennials named Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, the app was supposed to crowdsource information about areas where bad things happened so that users could stay safe. Of course, people pointed out immediately that what the app actually seemed to be doing was allow richer, whiter individuals to warn each other about poorer, browner areas so they would never have to step outside their gentrified bubble.
The worried orange face of progress!
It didn't help that SketchFactor claimed a partnership with the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, an anti-racial-profiling group formed after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Despite being featured heavily on their website, it turned out the partnership never existed. And the app was only available on iPhones -- a ridiculously expensive piece of kit that many low-income people whose neighborhoods were being disparaged wouldn't be able to afford. Then, of course, there were the trolls who descended the minute it launched to make fake or ridiculous posts.
Finally, criminals have a way of reporting the ninja turtle menace.
But it was the obviously serious posts that were the most disturbing. People felt that things like seeing a homeless man asleep on a grate were worthy of a sketchiness rating, rather than engaging in basic human empathy. And in cities like Washington, D.C., where the app got a lot of reports, there was hardly any overlap with actual crime data from the Metropolitan Police Department. In other words, what a young white millennial sees and considers "sketchy" is a little bit different than what is actually dangerous. Namely, everything.
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