Gossip Site Continues to Stir Controversy, Draw Criticism
When Angela Richardson, 20, received a phone call about her name being posted on a relatively new gossip Web site, she didn’t know what to think.
She rushed online to www.juicycampus.com, a Web site she had never heard of, to see what was said about her.
Richardson was one of the lucky ones; her name was mentioned in two positive posts.
“I was ecstatic that someone said I was one of the nicest people from Jersey, and that I was among the classy women of 2010,” Richardson said with a smile. “That made me feel like I have such a good rep on campus.”
But not everyone mentioned on Juicy Campus gets such rave reviews from their classmates.
Nnamdi Anozie also received a phone call from a friend about his name being featured on the Web site. Anozie’s name can be found in a handful of posts including “Biggest A-holes on Campus,” “Cutest Guys/Girls From Georgia” and “Ugly N—— That Think They the S—.”
Anozie said he does not mind his name being singled out and frequents the site when he knows he’s been mentioned.
“When I initially found out about the site, I visited it frequently; now rarely if ever at all,” Anozie said. “Basically since my name isn’t a focal point, I am no longer interested.”
Matt Ivester started Juicy Campus Ivesterin October 2007 as a social site for college students to keep up with the goings on around campus.
The Juicy Meter on the site has recorded more than 150,000 posts from about 500 campuses, up from the 63 campuses featured last year. Users simply search for their campus and can then start new threads or reply to current threads with complete anonymity.
Threads about homosexual students, promiscuous students and fraternity and sorority secrets are common.
Sexist, racist and vulgar posts are also commonplace.
Ivester, a Duke University alumnus, said his interest in campus gossip inspired him to start Juicy Campus.
“I realized that every day, on every campus, every student has these kinds of conversations about what’s going on around campus,” Ivester said.
Ivester said he wanted to create a place where students could feel free to post what they wanted about anything and anyone – hence the complete anonymity of the site.
While some students are intrigued by the idea of complete anonymity, a growing number of students are speaking out and even boycotting the Web site.
A handful of Facebook groups exist, some with more than 1,200 members, calling for students to boycott the Web site.
Student governments have even gotten involved.
The student government of the University of Virginia (UVA) formally condemned the Web site in March and called for the 14,000 students to boycott the site.
UVA’s student council said the postings on Juicy Campus were “insensitive, malicious and violate the university’s principles of honor and respect,” according to a starexponent.com article.
The student council of UVA is hardly alone.
Student governments at Pepperdine University, Baylor University and Columbia University have all come out against Juicy Campus, urging students not to visit or post on the site.
Ivester acknowledged that the site has featured some pretty nasty posts about students.
“Anytime I see a personal attack, I feel bad for the person that’s being attacked like that,” Ivester said.
“But I feel strongly that it should be a place where we let college students decide what they want to talk about and what they deem appropriate,” Ivester added.
The student government of Howard University has taken no formal action against the site, though some students believe the site should be blocked because of the damaging material that is posted about students.
“I believe that it is a tool used by people to tarnish the image of potentially good people,” Anozie said. “It harms the social life of many ‘names’ on campus.”
Anozie went on to say that he felt Howard should “most definitely” work to block the Web site from the server.
“Howard University would not be the first campus to discuss banning the site,” Ivester acknowledged. “And on many of these campuses, this would be the first site to be blocked – not the most vicious hate site or porn sites, but Juicy Campus!”
Leading up to the recent presidential election there was an increase in racist posts, especially on historically black college boards.
Ivester said that though the boards are not normally monitored, spam, illegal hate speech and contact information are deleted from the boards when reported.
“Hate isn’t juicy,” Ivester said.
Not all students feel that the site should be blocked from the campus server, even if they don’t agree with the site’s content.
“It’s not that serious; it’s a Web site,” said Isaiah Adams, another student featured on the site. “If people want to get on it, they will find a way.”
“Most of the stuff on juicy campus is stuff relatively known throughout the campus anyway.” Another question being asked by some students is whether juicycampus.com is liable for the defamatory content published on its Web site.
Tianna Johnson, a communications law professor at Howard University, said no real precedent is in place for privacy law on the Internet, making these cases very hard to determine.
“The technology has simply surpassed our regulation of cyberspace, because it is constantly getting harder to identify perpetrators and bring people to justice, in part because of the anonymity these computer sites give them,” Johnson said.
Juicy Campus insists it is not liable for any content published on its site. When the site recognizes a new IP address, a disclaimer pops up with a link to the terms and conditions to which the user must agree before accessing the site.
Ivester also cited the Communication Decency Act of 1996 as the site’s fail safe from liability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Professor Johnson advises anyone who thinks he or she has been defamed or has had their privacy violated on the site to seek legal advice, though the final decision would be up to the courts.
All the controversy surrounding Juicy Campus doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect on the site’s popularity.
“We’ve had almost a million unique visitors over the past month,” Ivester boasted.