Andrew Clark: Rumor has it…

If you haven’t heard by now, JuicyCampus.com is the latest explosive gossip craze to hit The George Washington University.

The news of the Web site has spread like wildfire, and it now has a whopping 16 pages worth of blog threads about GW students, with countless replies posted under each one. Discussions, if you can even call them that, about whether or not someone is a closeted homosexual, is overly promiscuous or has undersized genitalia are everywhere.

Really, GW? I mean, really? Let’s grow up and get a little ethical while we’re at it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning gossip as some terrible sin. We all do it. Who hooked up with whom and who is hot come into conversation circles with friends more often than we care to admit. The words “I heard.” followed by some scandalous rumor have come from all our lips at some point.

Still, there is a vast difference between gossip among friends, where you can pinpoint the speaker and hold them accountable for what they say, and slanderous gossip on immature Web sites where the poster is anonymous and completely free to say whatever he or she pleases with no fear of repercussions. A potential applicant to GW, after logging on to the site for five minutes, would disgustedly throw their application into the trash.

The Web site is sickening through and through. It was founded in 2007 by Matt Ivester, a Duke alumnus who has defended the site by saying, according to the Associated Press, “Like anything that is even remotely controversial, there are always people who demand censorship . However, we believe that Juicy Campus can have a really positive impact on college campuses.”

Juicy Campus is a lawyer’s fantasy – or maybe nightmare. It is damning enough to be taken down by the law but vague enough to escape being pigeonholed by any certain statute. It’s a trainwreck of free speech and liability, mired in the lawless frontier of the Internet. I’ve heard more than one person defend it as an exercise of the First Amendment, immune from the law. Don’t be so sure.

Last year, the state of New Jersey filed a suit subpoenaing all of Juicy Campus’ records. They cleverly argued that Juicy Campus violated laws that protect against consumer fraud, because the site promises to protect consumers from offensive material when it clearly doesn’t. There is no ability to delete offensive posts and no chance for the subjects of the gossip to seek retribution or removal from the Web site.

Of course Juicy Campus doesn’t want to put in a “delete post” option. What fun would that be?

I challenge the owners of Juicy Campus to come to our school. Have a public forum. I’m sure you won’t get too many compliments about the site’s positive impact.

I challenge our school to grow some backbone, try to censor the site or work to pursue some kind of legal action similar to what New Jersey has done.

But most importantly, I challenge our school to stop using Juicy Campus. We are better than this. I’ve been warned by friends about writing this column – my name will probably be attacked, or I’ll be defamed as a closeted homosexual, or ugly or an ass. But I don’t care about what Juicy Campus says. I only care about the moral character and judgment of those who read it.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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