JuicyCampus.com, Anonymity, and (Fake) School Shootings
This story was picked up by CNN: “Student arrested after threats to attack campus”
I arrived back from the “Altstadt” in Düsseldorf, Germany, last night to an email and an AIM message. The email was from LMU and was not a routine test of the emergency broadcast system. It was warning me that there could be a school shooting today. The administration had got wind of an anonymous post on the
juvenile gossip site, JuicyCampus.com [with no hyperlink for a reason].
JuicyCampus.com boasts itself as an anonymous forum for students to voice their opinions and gossips about their school in particular. The current top posts on the site for LMU are: “People are so stupid I can’t even begin,” “Hottest female teacher?” and “Too many blacks/mexicans?” On December 8, one student from LMU–struck by a stroke of genius–posted the following comment yesterday on JuicyCampus:
Given that the Virginia Tech shootings happened less than a year ago, the administration acted on this and brought in the LAPD and put its emergency messaging system to use. From what I can gather an ocean away, the campus shut down and a score of coppers were drifted about LMU’s bluff over Los Angeles.
The (alleged) student that made the threat, although JuicyCampus.com promises anonymity to all users, was tracked down and arrested. We’ll see what happens to him in the mean time.
The important issue here for your Sunday contemplation is the promise (and power) of anonymity. Students can rant wherever they wish: blogs, MySpace, Facebook, or JuicyCampus.com… Threats, while cathartic and a joke to some, often make those in power positions “flip out.” Since April 16 of last year, I would rather have an overreaction. JuicyCampus.com, the disgusting Web 2.0 fad site that it is, prides itself on keeping all posts anonymous:
Shame on you, JuicyCampus. Not only does the site encourage inane rantings, but it also promises anonymity in a world where that is proven time and time again that that is not the case. The power of anonymity is a steel, ego-crushing sword for most people. (Who hasn’t created a fake profile for some web site in their life?) With anonymity, you can call someone ugly on Facebook or post the word “poop” on her MySpace.
So today while you’re sipping on coffee studying for finals, please don’t think your actions on the net are ever anonymous just because a site promises it. Even Safari’s “Private Browsing” is only good enough for face-saving while browsing for porn. Maybe we’ll write a post in the next coming days on how to completely browse anonymously. There is a time and place for such a thing.
But in the meantime, please don’t threaten to shoot up your school.