'Ugly Meter' App Raises Ire With Cyberbullying Opponents

A popular app in iTunes called "Ugly Meter" has parents and anti-bullying organizations concerned.

"Ugly Meter" has reached the 3 million downloads mark in the iTunes app store. The latest version of the app, released on Nov. 29 by the app creator Dapper Gentlemen, touts new features including "Bully Mode" with meaner insults and the ability to post “Your Ugly Photos” to Facebook and Twitter.

The app claims to scan facial details in a photograph and then assign a rating of 0 to 10 on the so-called "Ugly Scale." Ratings come with a joke-style description such as "When you walk past a bathroom, the toilet  flushes." Low scores on the scale receive more favorable descriptions, such as “Winning!”

The ugly truth

Despite its crackling green simulated scan, the results appear to be random. In tests, the same face received rankings between 0.5 and 7 — a chair got a 7. Even as a joke or novelty app, some experts say its effects could be harmful, especially to those unaware that the app’s ratings are random.

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"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," Gwenn O'Keeffe, author of "Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media" (American Academy Of Pediatrics, 2010), said in a statement. “There's just nothing good that could come from an app like this."

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"When we created the Ugly Meter, we never expected it to hit #3 top paid and #3 top grossing in the app store," the creators wrote. It was just a little way to have fun with their friends, they said, but "it ended up turning into a world wide crazy fest, thanks to a media system that likes to lie and overreact to get people's attention."

Like it or not, "Ugly Meter" is out there. It is rated appropriate for ages 9+ by iTunes. The $0.99 app is not free, so parents should be able to quickly see if their child has purchased "Ugly Meter" on their iTunes account.

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