Local News

Too 'Juicy' for College Campuses?

Posted April 18, 2008 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2008 8:27 p.m. EDT

— The juicier the better. That's what a Web site gaining popularity on more than 60 college campuses encourages when visitors post messages about classmates.

Duke University alumnus Matt Ivester founded JuicyCampus.com in August "with the simple mission of enabling online anonymous free speech on college campuses," the Web site says.

And if you're offended by a post about you, "Sorry." That's what the site says on its "frequently asked questions" page.

Although some posts are innocuous – who's the hottest guy or girl on campus – others trash people's reputations.

"It's despicable, honestly," Duke University freshman Mary Hannah Ellis said. "It's just completely filthy."

Ellis was a target on the site in a post that claimed she was suicidal.

"At first, I really became devastated by it," said Ellis, who missed three weeks of class because of embarrassment.

Gossip has always been part of the equation on college campuses, but the Internet allows it to be spread quickly to more people, and the gossiper, in many cases, can remain anonymous.

And it's all free speech protected under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 which protects Web sites from liability for libelous and slanderous posts by its visitors.

"Right now, I can go and post 'Joe Smith snorted cocaine last night,' and that's immediately available to the world," Duke University law professor Stuart Benjamin said.

"It's saying to people, 'Go ahead, and post your worst. You'll never be caught. Say anything you want to," he added.

But Benjamin says that if you can trace an IP (internet protocol) address back to an individual, that person can be held liable.

"So, the people who are actually posting this false information that's subject to defamation, the question is: can you find them?"

Ellis chose not to seek out the person who attacked her, but believes it's time for Congress to re-evaluate laws governing speech on the Internet.

"It's time for an update in the laws, definitely, because something has to be done to take care of this," she said.