Here's how French Girls, an iPhone app, is supposed to work: Users upload selfies, and anyone else with the app can then draw a portrait of the user and send it back to them.
The name is a play on the Kate Winslet line from Titanic ("draw me like one of your French girls") that has become a meme in its own right. In the short time the latest version has been around — it lets users pay for high-quality commissioned drawings — it's generated a lot of discussion on Twitter.
French Girls is fun, easy, cute and free; exactly the kind of bite-sized whimsy that social media excels at producing.
But this is the internet, where nothing gold can stay. And no sooner did these harmless nuggets of creativity begin to pop up on Twitter than the denizens of 8chan — the troll forum best known for its prominent role in GamerGate — began to use French Girls to hurl abuse at women, children, minorities, Muslims, and gays.
In a thread titled "LISTEN UP" that exhorts readers to "Get in here and do some damage," proud 8channers display the homophobic, racist, and otherwise intolerant drawings they have made and sent to unsuspecting users. Some of them are collected below; they're as awful (and uncreative) as you might expect from a website that spun off from 4chan for being too extreme.
"Making sure we've had a safe environment has been top of mind for us," French Girls CEO Adam Ceresko told BuzzFeed News. "We've employed banning systems to manage this and we take immediately action to remove users who violate our terms of service, which these drawings do."
So, despite the precautions French Girls has built in, this newest wave of abuse is a new variation on an old theme: There is no open social tool on the internet that cannot be abused by trolls.
Several of the offensive drawings in the post were made not on French Girls but on Draw Me!, an Android knockoff.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
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