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Earlier this week, stories about a facial-recognition app that can link photos of strangers to their Facebook accounts began to circulate, causing worry across the web about potential privacy invasion and, in a word, stalking. After widespread blowback from consumers and Facebook alike, its creators admitted the app was a sham; according to its critics, however, the damage had already been done, and while ‘Facezam’ might have been fake, it has helped to identify some very real problems.

Following a few days of heavy media criticism, the creators of Facezam, an app claiming to provide a stranger’s Facebook profile from just their (stolen) photo in passing, took down all the promotional images and copy about 70% success rates and “that beautiful girl you see on the train every day” on its website. They were replaced by a brief notice that the app was a “publicity stunt” all along, and had been cooked up by the British “Viral Marketing Agency” Zacozo Creative.

“For those concerned about Facezam, the app never existed and is never going to launch,” the site explains. It adds, with cavalier cryptic-ness, “Thankfully, face matching apps don’t currently exist in the West. We hope it stays that way.”

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As The Verge reported, Zacozo, “who mocked up visuals for the app, lied about the broader outlines of the project, and generated a wave of alarmed coverage in the process … seems unconcerned,” though Facezam’s creators have admitted that the campaign got out of hand. A spokesperson told the site, “Similar invasive apps are a popular topic in the media … so we thought this would be picked up quickly.”

Jack Kenyon, who reportedly claims to be the fake app’s founder, has also suggested that his hoax may have offered some food for thought. “Facezam could be the end of our anonymous societies,” he told the Telegraph. “Users will be able to identify anyone within a matter of seconds, which means privacy will no longer exist in public society.”

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Mocked up screen shots show what Facezam could have been like.

Screen shot via Facezam

Mocked up screen shots show what Facezam could have been like.

Indeed, Facezam managed to set off a range of powerful reactions both before and after the hoax was revealed, and not simply due to the real-life technology (if improbably owned) and privacy encroachments to which it referred, and upon which its temporary feasibility relied. As The Verge points out, media outlets who’d presented the app at face value have seen scrutiny on social media and in comment forums, while others have acknowledged the rising fears and innovations that made Facezam fairly easy to swallow.

For some, however, the stunt seems mostly to have left a bad taste.

In addition to mirroring aspects of high-tech threats that particularly face immigrants and people of color today, the marketing ploy is seen have made light of the widespread harassment of women, any satirical intent notwithstanding. Vocativ reflected, “While Facezam is fake, apps that encourage users to identify random strangers by taking their photos in public are very real, [and its] founder didn’t reply when [asked] about the ethical nature of encouraging harassment of women as a part of a viral marketing stunt.”

According to Monika Johnson-Hostler, executive director for the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, conversations about the ethics of jokes and ad campaigns about harassing or forcefully ‘pursuing’ women are exactly what such stunts should inspire. “It’s anecdotes like these that should drive us to create new policy,” she commented by phone. “It highlights the need to create culture change by drawing attention to jokes, whether they’re verbal or online, that still have an impact on women.”

“This is alarming and not funny. We know everyone’s experience is different, but the impact [of jokes likes these] is there and relevant, and it’s important to talk about it,” Johnson-Hostler added. “ Jokes are yet another method to perpetuate rape culture and the belief that women lie , [and] I hope our work shines light onto why this is harmful to women and stymies the work of creating a culture free of violence against women.”

See also: Uber Is On Alert After Report Of ‘Abhorrent’ Sexual Harassment At The Startup

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When it comes to creating social change through better jokes, many of us have already mastered the skills required without even knowing it. Whether we’re around the water cooler, out with friends, or driving the kids to practice, all of us are almost constantly and often effortlessly making choices about how our humor might directly or indirectly influence others.

It would generally seem, for example, that when we refrain from telling certain kinds of jokes in one situation or another (say, those jokes painted by one side or the other as not “politically correct”), it’s because we don’t want certain people to hear them and either become offended, miss the humor, or get ‘the wrong impression’—that is, the impression that we, the joke-teller, agree fundamentally and fully with its message, context, or tone.

For that reason, presumably, few people tend to crack wise about childhood illness and assault, or about the often terrifying, slow decline that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease, which our mothers and fathers and we ourselves increasingly face. If an apparently made-to-order, almost unavoidably side-splitting joke about infant leukemia came along, presumably most people who managed to enjoy it privately still wouldn’t tell it publicly and risk suggesting to friends, co-workers, or even strangers that they’re not bothered by the concept of losing a child, nor by the agony such children ensure, and would even laugh about it.

Because, unlike the ‘milder’ sorts of jokes about racial violence and sexual assault that we’ll hear, virtually no one finds children’s pain funny.

On the other hand, of course, stopping other people from making harmful jokes might seem pointless, but there are steps we can take that work pretty well. If patiently and respectfully explaining how such jokes hurt and harm others (and potentially facing a chilly-to-red-hot confrontation) is out of the question—even with something as simple as, “[Man/Girl], that’s not [kind/cool]”—there’s always the option of reducing the chance such jokes will be retold by not laughing at them.

Until we’re in the habit, fighting back a rush of laughter—one of our most joyous, instinctive, and utterly human experiences in life, and a decidedly physical one—can also seem all but impossible when some crass quip is nevertheless pretty funny. It can help a lot, though, to imagine a specific person we love and respect as its subject, whether as a victim of cyber-stalking or genetic idiocy, and see if we can still find hilarity in their suffering.

Regarding real-life and online harassment, hopefully the answer will increasingly be “no.”