Juicy Campus takes online gossip to the dark side

MaryAnne Shults

Katie ran into the hot guy from her math class at the party and they hit it off, and by the end of the night had hooked up. However, the next week in class she couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring at her and giggling.

Little did she know that he wasn’t the great guy she thought he was; he’d gone online and told the entire cyber-world about her sexual prowess and that she was a slut.

Meet Juicycampus.com. It’s sort of like the online version of the Burn Book in the movie “Mean Girls”, except it raises the bar on nasty, carrying it even deeper into the dark side.

The website is a venue for students from 500 colleges nationwide to post hate-filled comments attacking fellow students, faculty, etc. And, these cyber-bullies can spew their malicious remarks anonymously. Some of the most viewed topics include inquiries as to who is “hot” or not to down-right libelous and defamatory personal jabs.

A student from the University of Akron posted, “Did you know that in the University of Akron polymer science building students do not have access to higher then the third floor? It is because that about the third floor is dedicated for a group of individuals. Funded by the government to build worlds [sic] next weapon of mass-destruction.”

In anti-Semitic postings, students suggest that dorm showers be converted into gas chambers. They also call for gays and lesbians to be dragged through the streets and write hateful statements about non-Caucasians.

“It’s awful,” said Elizabeth Bittenbender, 19, a student at Saddleback and Cal State Fullerton. “It’s sad that people are thinking the way they are.”

Elizabeth is a member of a sorority at Fullerton, one of the groups heavily targeted on the gossip site.

“”A lot of people like to attack them [sororities] I think,” said Elizabeth. “I see that all the time.”

The site doesn’t appear to have any shocking comments posted by or about Saddleback College or Irvine Valley College students. However, as the site’s popularity grows, this may change. And, this upsets some in the colleges’ communities.

“I’m sure students and faculty are aware of it, but I hope that it stops here. Posting to such a site shows a lack of character, along with intolerance and disrespect,” said Nicole Loftus, a Saddleback sociology instructor. “I am sure students and faculty are aware of it, but I hope that it stops here. Posting to such a site shows a lack of character, along with intolerance and disrespect.”

Juicy Campus creator Matt Ivester told ABC News that the hate speech embodies a minority of students looking to get a reaction out of the site’s visitors.

“No one should take posts like this seriously,” said Ivester, a Duke University alumnus. “Well, I’ll tell you from a personal standpoint…personally there has been a lot of stuff on Juicy Campus that I’ve read and I just, personally, find it abhorrent.”

Of course, Ivester is hiding behind the First Amendment’s right of free speech and section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. His outlook is that there should be no censorship and that some of this stuff on there is mean but the majority of the postings are just funny.

“I absolutely do not feel guilty and I don’t think there’s any reason for me to feel guilty about providing a forum for speech. What we’re doing is kind of amoral. We are just the platform. And I don’t think there’s anything to feel bad about that,” Ivestor said.

Some students disagree. Caitlyn Murphey of Texas Christian University started a group on Facebook called Students Against Juicy Campus. The group quickly grew to over 3,500 members.

“So originally I started this group merely as an outlet for those who do not like the site, to come and voice their opinions of why they do not like it,” said Murphey wrote. “I had no idea it would explode like it did.”

In February, student leaders at Pepperdine University voted to ban access to it from the university network, and several other colleges are considering the same including Georgetown University.

Law makers are concerned about the legalities of Juicy Campus. The New Jersey attorney general opened an investigation last month under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act, arguing that the site misleads it users.

On a posi-tive note, some defend Juicy Campus as an interactive venue for students to post their opinions to solicit response from others, and it is an uncensored, anonymous way to show expression.

“As a sociology instructor, I hope to instill certain values and ideas regarding humanity and making students aware of their surroundings,” Loftus said. “Although these sites are appalling, it is ultimately free speech, with no name to the words. People posing to this site are not going to get very far in life. Period.”