Apple and TikTok booted an iPhone app promoting secret large, indoor parties as COVID-19 surges across the US
- Vybe Together, a New York City-based "secret party app," used TikTok to promote a large New Year's Eve event that appear to break CDC-recommended COVID-19 safety protocol.
- TikTok removed the Vybe Together account Tuesday evening for violating community guidelines. Apple removed Vybe Together from the App store as well.
- Vybe Together CEO Alexandar Dimcevski said in a Wednesday morning email to Business Insider the company "never hosted any large parties."
- Immunologists and healthcare workers worry New Year's Eve parties could cause COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths to spike
- Fellow party promotion company Eventbrite removed two large party listings in San Francisco, per SF Gate, but has kept up hundreds of other invitations.
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TikTok said it has removed the account for Vybe Together, a "secret party app," which used social media to promote large New Year's Eve gatherings in New York City that appear to break COVID-19 safety protocols.
A Vybe Together video promoting "secret gatherings" in New York City every weekend with videos of crowds of people indoors without wearing masks was viewed nearly 11,000 times before TikTok removed the account for violating its community guidelines.
The Vybe Together app, first posted to the App Store four months ago, was quickly removed after Business Insider inquired about it with Apple. An Apple representative did not respond to a request for comment.
New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz first spotted the app's TikTok account.
—Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) December 29, 2020
"We are like Eventbrite, but way cooler," a Vybe Together spokesperson said in an email to Business Insider. "Vybe's can be anything from playing board games to bachata with your neighbors. A lot of people have been isolated and lonely and we wanted to enable them to meet. We are aware that large gatherings are not okay and we do not promote them. If we see events are popular we take them off!"
Vybe Together CEO Alexandar Dimcevski said in a Wednesday morning email update to Business Insider the company "never hosted any large parties," and described the deleted TikTok as an "over-the-top marketing video."
"We do not condone large unsafe parties during a pandemic," Dimcevski added.
Vybe Together allows users to find and create private parties. Only members approved by Vybe Together can use the app.
After facing criticism, Vybe Together took down its entire website, as well as its Instagram page. On Tuesday night, the lone post on the app's Instagram page had read: "blown out of proportion by the media. We DO NOT CONDONE LARGE GATHERINGS!!!" The Vybe Together website had asked users, "Miss playing beer bong, flirting with strangers, and generally having a blast with the crew?" and invited them to, "Get your rebel on."
According to his now-deleted LinkedIn, Alexander Dimcevski, a Baruch college alum, cofounded an app called Trendies in January 2020, which appears to have rebranded as Vybe Together. The vybetogether.com domain was registered on September 14, 2020. Vybe Together did not respond to inquiries regarding the company's founding date, headquarters, or investors.
Documentation on the Vybe Together website showed it is owned by Chaparone Corporation, which Dimcevski registered as a New York City business to a Manhattan address on January 24, 2019.
Immunologists and other experts worry New Year's Eve parties could cause COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths to spike. More than 63,000 people have died of COVID-19 in December, marking the month the deadliest of the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a stay-at-home order in California as ICU capacity reached critical lows this month, causing overflowing hospitals to place patients in gift shops.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended staying home for New Years Eve. If Americans choose to gather, the CDC said to wear masks, stay six-feet apart, avoid crowds, and avoid alcohol and shouting.
Fellow party promotion company Eventbrite removed two large party listings in San Francisco, per SF Gate, but has kept up hundreds of other invitations. Critics on social media have called for Eventbrite to remove more listings due to the danger of COVID-19 transmission.
Eventbrite laid off 45% of its staff in April, Billboard reported, due to the pandemic's impact on the live events industry. Eventbrite reported 73% less net revenue in the third quarter of 2020 than in the same period last year.
"The COVID-19 global pandemic is a very dynamic situation for everyone, including event creators, who are the hosts, facilitators and owners of the experiences on Eventbrite's platform," an Eventbrite spokesperson said in an email to Business Insider. "Our Community Guidelines have always prohibited events that promote or contain illegal behavior and our community plays an essential role in reporting any concerning event listings or content."
Healthcare workers recently told Business Insider they expect COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to climb after Christmas and New Year's Eve, which could exacerbate burnout among doctors and nurses.
"I'm pretty worried about the surge after the Christmas and New Year's holidays," San Francisco-based emergency room nurse Jason Harrison told Business Insider. "I've seen no indication that the population is going to modify or reduce its travel."
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