Outrage comes easily on the Internet, but even when it’s deserved it’s not always warranted. Consider the case of our latest cyber bête noire, the ill-considered dating site WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com. Announced last week by a controversial billboard in West Valley City, Utah, the site quickly made national news. With its nominal promise to help white people do something they’ve seemingly never had much trouble doing, it sparked widespread derision on Twitter and elsewhere.
But there’s good news! Hardly anyone seems to be actually using the site. Like less offensive services of its kind, WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com proudly displays a membership counter on its home page. Given that they’re self-reported, such figures aren’t always entirely reliable. Scammy infidelity-facilitator Ashley Madison, for example, made news in late December when CNN noticed that it had allegedly acquired 4 million new members since it was famously hacked. No real confirmation of that figure has arrived, however, and it seems unlikely at best. If the user counter on WhereWhitePopleMeet.com feels a little more plausible, it may be because it’s less self-congratulatory: As I type this on Monday evening, it reports a mere 1,229 members, 19 of whom are currently online.
Those numbers aren’t static, of course—they’ve gone up considerably since the site stumbled into the public eye. Discussing the site on Sunday, Jezebel reported that it had only 700 users, up from half that the day before. And sure, it’s troubling that a site like this one exists in the first place, most of all because its racial politics are so frank and unapologetic. But 19 active users simply isn’t that many, especially for a site that’s currently making headlines. Indeed, I’d hazard a guess that there are more people currently up in arms about it in my Twitter feed than there are members using its services.
WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com is a clear product of racism, and it’s important not to minimize that fact. Speaking to the Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey, the site’s founder claims, “The site is not racially motivated in any way.” Even if that’s true, it’s hard to imagine why anyone without racial motivations would bother to use the site in the first place, especially given that—as Dewey notes—mainstream dating sites demonstrate a “bias against people of color.”
For all that, WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com is considerably ickier. Virtually all dating sites let their users specify the qualities they hope to find in a possible mate. But these aren’t just people who are looking for those who look like them; they also want you to know that that’s what they’re looking for. If so, the site’s small user base may be getting its wish in an unexpected fashion.
WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com proudly advertises its “Top Members” on its home page, conveniently organizing them under the rubrics of “Newest,” “Active,” and “Popular.” Several of those who top these lists appear to be obvious spam (e.g. the bikini-clad “Sexy”) or dummy accounts (the similarly mononymic “admin”). Somewhat more surprisingly, a number of the site’s users show up under their full names with seemingly authentic photographs attached. All of this information is publicly available to anyone who visits the site, whether or not they’ve set up a profile.
In the unlikely event that WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com outlasts the current news cycle, it may want to give some thought to its security settings. For now, the rest of us can probably dial back our outrage slightly: If nothing else, the site has made the racists of the world just a little easier to spot.