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Ghetto Tracker is a travel advisory website offering maps that define “safe” and “unsafe” regions within the United States based on crowdsourced information and user ratings. Upon its launch in August 2013, the site was quickly admonished by several internet news sites and blogs for its perceived implication of racism.
Though GhettoTracker.com was registered in November 2009, the URL was parked as recently as June 11th, 2013. The site launched as early as August 31st, 2013, when a Twitter account with the handle @GhettoTracker made its first tweet, linking to the site and noting they were receiving “several reports of #ghettos in #Tallahassee.” The home page of the site originally featured a photograph of a smiling all-white family (shown below), describing itself as a tool that can help determine the “safe” areas of a new city. The following day, the site launched an anonymous feature, allowing anyone to rate cities without logging in using data from Google Maps.
On September 3rd, 2013, tech blog Pando Daily posted a piece on Ghetto Tracker, calling it “the worst site on the Internet.” Author David Holmes also noted that the site populated a thumbnail of two black men reaching into a car trunk when he attempted to share the URL on social networking sites. He also contacted the site’s owner about whether or not the site was intended to be satirical and he responded by saying its “functionality is very real and serious” while the name was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. The same day, the site was discussed on The Week before the owner briefly changed the name of the site to “Good Part of Town” and made the image on their about page shuffle through stock photos of black and Latino families.
Despite the name change, on September 4th, screenshots from their deleted Facebook page illustrating “ghetto” stereotypes (shown below) were posted on the single topic Tumblr blog Public Shaming. The same day, Gawker reported the owner had not expected to receive such backlash for using the word “ghetto” and stated he “can’t be held responsible for the assumptions people may make in regards to factors like race and income.” Later that evening, the creator deleted the site altogether, stating it wasn’t “worth the trouble.” However, it was back up the following day.
News Media Coverage
Creator’s Identity Revealed
On September 8th, a local Fox news affiliate in California identified the creator of Ghetto Tracker as Tallahassee resident David Foster, CEO of the marking platform Hubze. Foster told reporter Tia Ewing over email that he was inspired to create the website by his wife, who often travels to unfamiliar areas as part of her pharmaceutical sales job. He claimed that he had outsourced his Facebook marketing and immediately shut down the page after seeing its offensive content. He also noted that if the site became profitable, he would be donating 20% of its profits to charities that serve impoverished communities. The following day, Foster was interviewed by journalist Ben Swann (shown below) where he said he was keeping the name Ghetto Tracker thanks to positive feedback from users.
The Atlantic – The Real Problem With a Service Called ‘Ghetto Tracker’
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