Dear app companies: don’t use rape to promote your product

A headline we should never have to write

Terrible press releases are not a rarity when you work in journalism. They land in your inbox with the depressing regularity of a pigeon’s bowel movements. But sometimes you get one so bad, so staggeringly ill-thought-out, that it makes “Gas canisters: the perfect Father’s Day present” look like PR gold.

This is one of those times.

In fairness, we didn’t receive n-gage’s release ourselves – it was forwarded to us by someone horrified by its content. So while n-gage may not have the sense not to name their product after a Nokia phone from 2003, they did at least refrain from sending it to a site likely to write an article about the release rather than the product, ie us. Unfortunately for them, we’re doing it anyway.

With the subject line “Could New Messenger App n-gage help to prevent violent crime?”, the release started with this rather arresting headline:

OK, not quite what we were expecting from the subject line – this isn’t about violent crime as a whole, it’s about a real-life rape that happened to a specific woman. It continues:

At least they refrained from including the details, I thought, until I noticed there’s a link at the bottom of the email to the news story. How anyone could read about a woman’s 45-minute ordeal, in which she was half-strangled and left for dead, and think “hey, what a great opportunity to promote my app!” is absolutely beyond me.

But they did. And that’s the end of the introductory setup – after all, this is a promotional email. It’s time for the big sell.

The implication here is that if only this woman had used n-gage instead of WhatsApp, she wouldn’t have been raped. In fact, they’ve added emphasis to all the features of their app that would have been useful to the victim.

Jesus christ.

Below a second quote from the CEO (who does not appear to be any kind of expert on violent crime, but has previously been accused of deliberately targeting vulnerable people with dodgy ‘health’ pills costing thousands), the email switches into cheerful, promotional mode, listing out the app’s features including “playful” doodles and stickers. After an introduction about a real rape.

How this got past even one human being before being sent to high-profile journalists around the world boggles the mind. Worse, we haven’t seen anyone else call them out (except the person who sent it to us), and several outlets wrote the release as presented, including the rape.

We contacted n-gage to ask what they were thinking. To their (limited) credit, we received a response from an n-gage spokesperson by the name of Michael Kitt. We’ve published it in full below, with some comments from Gadgette in [square brackets].

Gadgette: Could you explain why you decided to use the example of a real woman’s rape as a way to promote your product?

“The horrific story that had been previously published actually highlights the potential danger that exists when we share private content. Our intentions on this press release were to highlight the dangers of sharing private content and at the same time highlight the privacy features of n-gage. [With rape. Right.]

Some of the press have used it to simply highlight the first part without referring to n-gage, some have highlighted the product and not the story and many have done both.

Gadgette: Given that you don’t know how the rapist got hold of her photos, how can you assert that it wouldn’t have happened if she’d used your app?

We are not saying that n-gage could have prevented this terrible situation, we are highlighting that if somebody wants to send sensitive content to another person then they should use a social platform such as n-gage to take more control. […and therefore that she should have used your app, no?]

For example: If you were to share content through a platform other than n-gage, your friend could access the system files through the Android device system file explorer and potentially abuse them. If however you shared the content via n-gage, then the files are fully encrypted and therefore are completely unreadable. [Unless you have *any other device with a camera*  and take a photo of the screen, as we’ve seen with Snapchat] 

Additionally, if the recipient receives a message or file through n-gage and wants to copy or forward it, then you are able to stop them from doing so. You are also able to take back content sent to the receiver at any time or even send it in a self-destruct format in the first place. [as above]

For instance, I recently watched a movie called “The Intern” with Robert De Niro and there was a scene where Anne Hathaway sent an angry email about her mother, to her mother, by accident. If she had sent the message on n-gage she could have used our extract feature to call it back easily. [Was this not perhaps a better example to use than a real rape case?]

n-gage goes further than any other messaging app when it comes to personal privacy, even to the point of encrypting all files on the device and providing the ability to burn all the n-gage data if someone loses their phone.

Gadgette: Is there nothing better to say about your product than “might prevent rape in this one instance”?

There are plenty features that can be highlighted and I am happy to do so. This release was about privacy of content and we are highlighting 13 features of the app.

We have deliberately kept identities of the people involved private. There is no harm meant to any person involved and we regret if any has been caused.”

Well, we regret than in 2016, a company thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to mass-mail a press release discussing a real woman’s real assault, and then spin it to sell a product. We also regret that the company couldn’t see the error of their ways and responded to defend the email rather than apologise and retract. We regret that we even had to write this article.

But at least we can’t regret downloading n-gage, because that will never, ever happen.

Main image: Pexels

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 291 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.