An iOS app called Vybe Together that promoted private parties during the COVID-19 pandemic has been removed from the Apple App Store, had its account on TikTok banned, and scrubbed most of its online presence. The appâ€™s creators told The Verge that Apple was the one to take it off the App Store.
Vybe Together billed itself on TikTok and its website as a place to organize and attend underground parties, using the tagline â€œGet your rebel on. Get your party on.â€� Organizers would have to approve everyone who wanted to attend, and those who got approved would receive the address two hours before the event. Most of these gatherings would have been illegal under current US pandemic restrictions â€” which may explain why the app required you to submit a profile for approval before you were allowed on.
Calling a phone number on Vybe Togetherâ€™s site connected The Verge with someone who identified themselves as Albin, one of the appâ€™s co-founders. They said that the app had a few thousand users, and that a few thousand additional applicants had requested access to it since the company started putting videos on TikTok. Applying involved submitting your Instagram handle and uploading pictures of you partying to the service, presumably to make sure that you werenâ€™t someone who was going to spill the beans about the events.
Vybe Together largely had a low profile before today, although it was mentioned in at least one EventBrite invitation to a New York party in September. It received wider exposure after The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz critically tweeted screenshots of the website and described it as an app for â€œfinding and promoting COVID-unsafe large, indoor house parties.â€�
Vybe Togetherâ€™s now-removed FAQ page acknowledged the danger of the pandemic, but it said the app was designed to promote â€œsmall gatheringsâ€� rather than â€œbig parties.â€� (Smaller gatherings of people from different households can still spread the coronavirus, creating chains of infection that extend far beyond the original event, putting people who didnâ€™t attend the party at risk.)
In a statement to The Verge, a spokesperson denied that the app was intended to promote unsafe behavior. â€œVybe Together was [a minimum viable product] designed to help other people organize small get-togethers in parks or apartments during COVID,â€� the spokesperson said. â€œWe never hosted any large parties, and we made one over-the-top marketing video that left a wrong impression about our intentions, which has since been taken down. We do not condone large unsafe parties during a pandemic.â€�
Itâ€™s unknown whether the app substantially contributed to people holding unsafe events, although it promoted â€œgatherings every weekendâ€� â€” including an upcoming New Yearâ€™s Eve party â€” in a TikTok video. The Vybe Together app had only 25 ratings before being removed, and its Instagram page has under 1,000 followers. In a statement to The Verge, TikTok said the account on that platform had only 139 followers when it was removed. The app appears to have launched previously under the name Trendies, a name mentioned on its now largely empty Instagram page.
Vybe Togetherâ€™s website also advertised a â€œVybe Houseâ€� for the 2021 Zamna Festival music event in Tulum, Mexico. The houseâ€™s pictures correspond to an Airbnb listing for a rental called the Casa Remy Villa. However, the listingâ€™s manager couldnâ€™t confirm the existence of a â€œVybe Houseâ€� event to The Verge.
â€œWe have rented the villa to some influencers,â€� said the owner, who said they had â€œno ideaâ€� if any renters were linked to the app. â€œBut they know parties arenâ€™t allowed of any kind as they are forbidden by authorities during [the] pandemic, with the risk of shutting down the property and a huge fine.â€� The Airbnb host also notes that the Zamna Festival was recently postponed to April â€” not the January dates listed on its website.
Vybe Togetherâ€™s Instagram account now contains a single text post. â€œBlown out of proportion by media,â€� it reads. â€œWe DO NOT CONDONE LARGE GATHERINGS.â€�
Update December 29th, 8:06PM ET: The appâ€™s creators have now clarified that Apple was the one to pull the app from the App Store.
Update December 30th, 10AM ET: Added a statement from a Vybe Together spokesperson.
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