An innocent-enough startup has turned rogue, causing uproar, division, and violence. Buut, a filter startup that appealed to our childhood silliness, allowed users to apply slapstick graphics such as butt faces, poop emojis, and donkey faces to people’s photos. The app was never approved for the Google or Apple stores, but it went viral as a decentralized web3 app. After amassing 50 million users, the app has gone dark, leaving users with a host of disturbing issues.
Users are reporting that certain minorities are being targeted with filters of a turd, akin to Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo from South Park, or offensive stereotypes such as a Churro. Additionally, users are reporting that their offline photo albums have been sporadically edited to replace people with the offensive images, with original photos deleted. “I am devastated, my pictures of my adopted children have all been violated. I have friends that have been turned into turds, churros and chopsticks” said one user of the app. “This app was supposed to be a bit of fun, but now it’s causing real harm and I’m worried about the impact it will have on our community.”
The creator of the app is unknown at this time, and government leaders and officials are at a loss of what to do. Many are worried that the app could incite greater violence, as there are already hundreds of reports of incidents related to it. The risks of web3 decentralized apps have come into sharper focus with the Buut scandal. Without the oversight of a centralized authority, the risk of offensive and harmful content spreading is much higher. Additionally, the decentralized nature of these apps makes it difficult for authorities to track down and hold those responsible accountable.
“We were shocked and saddened to hear about the offensive and harmful content being spread through the Buut app,” said the creators of South Park in a statement. “We want to make it clear that we are in no way affiliated with the app and never licensed Mr. Hankey or any other character from our show for its use. We strongly condemn the actions of the app’s creators and hope that steps are taken to hold them accountable for the harm they have caused.”
The statement from the creators of South Park highlights the danger of decentralized apps like Buut, which operate outside of traditional legal and regulatory frameworks. With the ability to spread offensive content at a rapid pace, and the anonymity of the creators, it becomes a challenge to hold anyone accountable for the actions and impacts they may cause. As the number of users grow and being mainstream, the severity of the situation is becoming clearer, and the calls for regulations and legal frameworks for web3 apps are getting louder.