This app’s name is reminiscent of some Harry Potter- esque, pure blood versus mudblood discrimination.
A dating app created in Singapore has sparked the ire of netizens after it posted a Facebook photo to market itself on 13th March. In its post, HighBlood promises “no banglas, no maids, no uglies, no fakes/bots, no escorts”.
Founder Herbert Eng, 29, has spoken out to defend his creation, saying his app will “dictate the aesthetic quality of the experience”.
The controversial marketing post obviously did not sit well with people. That photo was the single post that got significantly more responses than one or two occasional likes on HighBlood’s entire timeline.
The app’s name is reminiscent of some Harry Potter-esque, pure blood versus mudblood discrimination.
Here are some of the Facebook users’ comments, likening the app to an ‘Adolf Hitler’ or ‘Donald Trump’ ideology:
News site Mashable has also called out the app, calling it “elitist” and “racist”.
The term “banglas” is a racist slur for Bangladeshi workers in Singapore. There are about 315,000 construction workers in the country, including but not limited to migrants from Bangladesh, though the term is used loosely. There are also workers from Sri Lanka, India, and more.
About 239,700 domestic helpers come from neighbouring Southeast Asian countries like Philippines, Myanmar, and Indonesia.
Herbert Eng wrote an article on Medium dated 22nd March responding to Mashable, crying that it was “biased coverage”.
He explained that the name HighBlood is inspired by the Chaebol ruling class trope popular in Korean drama shows, meant to “playfully evoke the theme of a Vampire high society/elite cabal”. He wanted High blood for those who are sick and tired of fake profiles, scams, and bots in online dating.
He wrote, “Probably > 80% of all participants on dating apps see only 20% of interactions, most people are just blank swiping and we intend to allow users to collectively dictate the aesthetic quality of the experience.”
People can definitely understand that notion, for those who use dating apps want to know they are talking to a genuine person behind the screen. What they probably do not agree with is their marketing strategy and execution.
Eng goes on to explain a bit about the mechanics of HighBlood. The dating app is meant to filter people based on “accountant-verified information” as well as income, profession, and university education.
“Experts would be manually verifying the details (by image capture) submitted by users of the app,” Eng says. “We have growth engines within the app that leverage on such campus interaction.”
Users have to verify with their institute email e.g. harvard.edu to gain special access to the Harvard co-ed group chat, the same for local universities, Ivy league schools and top UK universities. Alumni who do not have access to their institute email can verify through image capture of their graduation certificate. Income and profession can be verified by image capture.
He shows how a sample dating profile of himself would look like on his app:
Occupation, school, and income are all verified like “Facebook’s verified ticks”, and he is put at the 92 percentile on Singapore’s median income.
However, Eng insists that he is neither classist nor racist.
He said regarding the advertisement on Facebook, claiming that the ‘preference’ was “occupational” rather than “racial”
“We are not racist because science has conclusively proven that genetically, and if you assume intelligence to be the objective dimension of comparison, there are no differences between the races.
“What does manifests in Asian culture, however, and especially in Singapore, is a certain racial preference when it comes to dating — we are merely responding to honest (however politically incorrect) feedback respondents have given us when we asked them what they find insufferable in dating apps.”
He goes on to question, “Does having a racial preference in considering a life partner make one racist?”
In response to the app being classist, he feels that elite dating apps typically focus on exclusivity and being invite-only.
“Who’s to say app creators have the sole right to decide who’s in and who’s out?” he says — quite ironic actually.
Eng says High blood serves as a “neutral custodians of objective facts” aimed to “improve the landscape of online dating.”
He says, “We only verify information and leave the yardsticks and judging to the users. The process of denying entry into HighBlood is also performed by existing users.”