The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

Gossip Web site JuicyCampus.com sparks controversy

"Always anonymous. Always juicy," is the self-proclaimed description of the Web site JuicyCampus.com, which allows students at 50 colleges and universities to post anonymous comments about other students and organizations at their schools.

The Web site urges students to "give us the juice," which has often resulted in racist, sexist, homophobic and offensive posts.

The University of Richmond is not currently listed as one of the supported campuses, but anyone can look at the Web site. Clicking on the "most viewed" tab reveals a list of the most promiscuous girls at UCLA, an invitation to participate in group sex at Indiana University and a link to a picture of SAE facial girl at Vanderbilt University.

According to the Web site's frequently asked questions, "there is no way for someone using the site to find out who you are. And we at JuicyCampus are not keeping track of who you are or what you post. In fact, we prefer not to know who you are."

It is also impossible to remove a comment once it has been posted on the Web site. "You can't. Once it's out there. It's out there," the Web site reads.

JuicyCampus.com is the creation of 2005 Duke University graduate Matt Ivester, who was thinking back to his college days and some of his favorite stories.

"On every college campus, every day, every group of friends has these ridiculous stories," he said in an interview with The Collegian. "And I thought: 'Why not make a place online where people can share these stories?'"

Ivester said he hadn't had predetermined ideas about what people would write on the Web site but wanted it to be a forum for free speech.

"I'm a big proponent of free speech," he said. "I love that it is an additional platform for students to talk about the things that most interest them."

The result is a list of accusations and slurs about students, whose first and last names -- and sometimes dormitories -- are listed for thousands of people to read.

The posts range from somewhat harmless lists of the "hottest girls on campus" to threats of violence and racial epithets. Ivester said he had never read anything on the Web site that had upset him.

"I'm not the type of person who gets upset by words. It's unsubstantiated, anonymous gossip," he said. "But I also recognize that words can hurt."

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For this reason, Ivester posted a statement on a separate JuicyCampus blog, explaining that, "JuicyCampus is a gossip Web site. We do not make any representations as to the truth or accuracy of any information posted on the site, and in fact we expressly disclaim any such representations."

The Web site has caused a stir on college campuses across the nation and has also prompted some legal action. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General is investigating whether JuicyCampus.com is violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act through misrepresentation to users.

"The site's User Conduct Terms require posters to agree that they will not post content that is abusive, obscene or invasive of another's privacy," according to a news release from the state's Attorney General Anne Milgram's office. "JuicyCampus.com tells the public that this offensive content may be removed, but the site apparently lacks tools to report or dispute this material."

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General could not be reached for comment. Ivester said he was "extremely confident" that JuicyCampus.com had not violated any laws.

He said that the Web site was not fraudulent and that it was a forum for free speech.

"It is a platform and as such we cannot be held liable for what our users post," Ivester said. "We rely on our users to agree not to post defamatory statements."

Students at some colleges and universities are also taking action against JuicyCampus.com. The University of Virginia's Student Council passed a resolution formally requesting that Facebook discontinue advertisements for the site and encouraging students to boycott it.

Co-chairs of the Richmond Honor Council Lindsay Petty and Sean Connelly said that if the University of Richmond campus was added to the JuicyCampus Web site, it would be taken very seriously by the honor council.

"The negative nature the Web site has taken would be a violation of the spirit of the Honor Code," Petty said.

Reading or posting on the Web site would not be a formal violation of the Honor Code. But in its attempt to foster integrity among students, Connelly said the council would consider students' responses and advocating a boycott of the Web site.

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