CollegeACB blocked on campus

October 7th, 2010

Students have found a new forum for relieving frustrations and starting discussions about peers and campus organizations. (acronym stands for Anonymous Confession Board) allows users to anonymously make posts without censorship or repercussions.

The site, no longer accessible from the JCU campus server, was blocked by JCU’s Information Technology Service Department on Sept. 28 at the request of Sherri Crahen, dean of students.

Crahen was unfamiliar with CollegeACB until two female students victimized by the site brought it to her attention. 

“They pulled it up on my computer and showed it to me and I was appalled,” said Crahen. “I was very concerned about the types of comments that students were posting about each other.”

Crahen talked with Donna Byrnes, associate dean of students, and they agreed that the site should be blocked as soon as possible.

 “I think the school was right to block the site,” said Amanda Papa, Student Union president. “It was an extremely negative forum and only had the potential to hurt students.”

The website’s mission statement reads: “The CollegeACB or College Anonymous Confession Board seeks to give students a place to vent, rant and talk to college peers in an environment free from social constraints and about subjects that might otherwise be taboo.”

The site’s owner and operator, Wesleyan University junior, Peter Frank, claims that it was not created with the intent for students to bash one another. Regardless, the site’s content is often very controversial. 

While the John Carroll CollegeACB site does include some harmless discussion boards, it has also served as a forum where students have anonymously called out their peers by name, critiqued appearances and reputations, and contributed other rumors. 

In an interview with NBC Connecticut, Frank said, “Right now, it’s [the site is] mostly used for gossip. That’s largely a result of us taking over, but that’s never been our mission, and we’ve never called for salacious gossip.”

When, a similar style website, shut down on Feb. 5, 2009, they were paid by CollegeACB to direct users to Frank’s site. 

According to the JuicyCampus blog, the site shut down because of budgetary reasons, not lawsuits. However, a Time Magazine article pointed out that “this happened around the time two state attorneys general began investigating the site for possibly violating consumer-protection laws and its own terms of use.”

Crahen didn’t threaten CollegeACB with a lawsuit, but she did e-mail the site from her account explaining who she is and her concerns about the way students are using the site. 

“I received an automated response,” said Crahen. “It was disappointing to say the least.”

According to Time Magazine numerous individuals and several schools have asked Frank to delete comments or remove the site all together. 

Frank is able to keep the site in operation due partly to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This shields website operators from liability for user-generated content. 

Frank will remove content when requested. It could take a day or two, but users are sent a link with the status of their request. Information can also be automatically removed if enough logged-in users report a post.

The site is still in operation, but students are discouraged from using the site by administrators and Student Union. 

Ashley Bauer, Student Union VP for communications, said, “As a Jesuit university, we represent the Jesuit value of men and women for others. Specifically in the situation, we hope that students will represent this Jesuit value by eliminating the usage of this website in our community.”

Crahen encourages students affected by the website to utilize resources on campus like the Violence Prevention and Action Center, the University Counseling Center and campus ministry.

As for the future of the site beyond JCU, according to Time Magazine, Frank said, “I’m untouchable.”