There won’t be many sad eulogies for the late JuicyCampus at UC Davis.
The controversial website, which provided a space for students to post anonymous gossip, was a source for rumors that entertained some college students and enraged many more.
“It was like Disneyland for Internet gangsters,” said senior evolution and ecology major Sam Fahrner.
The site shut down on Feb. 5.
“JuicyCampus’ exponential growth outpaced our ability to muster the resources needed to survive this economic downturn,” said creator Matt Ivestor in a letter to JuicyCampus visitors.
The site was launched in August 2007 by Ivestor, a Duke University alumnus, as a light-hearted way for college students to anonymously spread gossip via the Internet, often relating to sororities and fraternities, under the motto, “Always anonymous … Always juicy.” JuicyCampus had expanded to over 500 campuses across the United States, including UC Davis, and attracted over a million visitors each month before it was forced to shut down.
But many of the discussions that took place on JuicyCampus were anything but light-hearted, often describing people whom college students thought were fat, gay, buck-toothed and anything in between. The site was the subject of seemingly unlimited controversy.
“It was used to harass people and spread false rumors,” said Parry Aftab of StopCyberbullying.org, an independent website dedicated to ending online harassment.
Aftab said she was thrilled that the site shut down, as JuicyCampus’s anonymity allowed for a new dimension to be brought to cyber harassment.
It is uncertain, however, whether or not JuicyCampus would have eventually been shut down if it had enough money to keep going, as it had continued to expand up until its bitter end. Though JuicyCampus claimed that it allowed no offensive material, there was no way for users to report slanderous comments, prompting the New Jersey Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the website in early 2008 for violating the Consumer Fraud Act.
A Colgate University student was arrested later that year on charges of aggravated assault after joking about shooting up the school. Several colleges had since voted to ban the site from campus use.
“I think it was a way for people to be mean-spirited and hurtful without taking responsibility,” said Dr. Emil Rodolfa, director of UC Davis Counseling and Psychological Services.
Rodolfa said that JuicyCampus was often raised in his networking with other counseling directors.
“As long as people have outlets to say things without responsibility, they will use them,” he said.
Many UC Davis students saw the site as slanderous and childish.
“JuicyCampus was pretty much a development league for people with insecurities,” Fahrner said. “Because you couldn’t see who was saying these things, you would go to class the next day not knowing if it was your worst enemy or best friend.”
The anonymity was a double-edged sword.
“I think the fact that it was completely anonymous was what was so appealing,” said junior communication major Nadine Mitchel.
UC Davis Greek students were among the most vocal against the website. A Facebook group called “UC Davis Greeks Against JuicyCampus,” claimed the site was purely slander. The group had over 600 members as of Feb. 16.
But Ivestor tirelessly defended the website during its existence.
“While there are parts of JuicyCampus that none of us will miss,” Ivestor said in his letter, “it has also been a place for the fun, lighthearted gossip of college life. I hope that is how it is remembered.”
RONNY SMITH can be reached at email@example.com.