The Sweet Addiction of Gossip

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    CampusGossip

    Not all local college students are spending their time binge drinking or complaining about the lack of jobs. Apparently, a lot of them are enjoying the sweet addiction of gossip.

    Like many vices, the practice of spreading stories – true and otherwise – has been turbocharged on the web.

    Spend a few minutes on CampusGossip.com, looking through its images, gossip and rankings and you’ll soon realize it’s an online version of “Mean Girls” for Greeks.

    “Fatties in Bottom Houses
    Stop wearing your derby days shirts around campus, you are embarrassing us. thanks”

    – Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    In Lance Lohan’s business venture, users create the content. Anything can be said, about anybody.

    Lohan, 23, is one of the founders of the site launched in 2007 for college students to share their experiences with one another.

    Most of the content is sexual. Many of the photos appear to be sexting images.

    For example, when we clicked on the link “Pics & Vid” the first image that popped up was one showing a half-naked woman taking her own picture in the mirror. The caption calls her “Sarah” and describes how “she met the guy who she cheated on my best friend with.” Whoever posted the image warns “Sarah,” “you may want to think twice before you send pictures to guys Sarah.”

    Uploading an image takes only seconds and you don’t need the subject’s permission to post the image. That could explain the images of girls naked or half-naked posing on beds, in hallways or even on boats.

    The user is informed their image will be uploaded in a few days. Lohan said the images go into a database and are examined by a staff of interns to check for minors in the photos. He didn't go into specifics on how the site ensures the subjects in the photos are 18 and older.

    Staffers also keep an eye out for anything Lohan considers inappropriate.

    “Some people can put up some really sick stuff,” he said.

    Lohan said the site has never been sued. There are no records of civil lawsuits filed against CampusGossip.com or Lohan in San Diego or Los Angeles counties.

    “As far as the laws go,” Lohan said. “Does a college kid really want to spent that much money?”

    If a user sends CampusGossip a note asking nicely to remove a photograph, they usually comply Lohan said.

    “The people who try and threaten us,” he said. “We usually don’t want to take it down.” 

    “Lauren D-----
    Girl, I’m trying to look out for you and I know NO ONE has the balls to tell you to your face… but the blonde hair is a no go. YOUR HAIR IS ORANGE RIGHT NOW! ORANGE!"

    – Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    The site lists hundreds of colleges and universities but of the local campuses, San Diego State University is by far the most popular subject.

    San Diego State University spokesperson Greg Block has heard of the website and as an employee and an alum, feels it puts the students and the university in a bad light.

    “It’s a raunchy, ridiculous website,” said Block.

    “We are a free speech campus. Students are able to do and post whatever they want. It’s unfortunate they feel the need to post things there,” he said.

    Some students question where free speech ends and hate begins.

    “At first glance, it looks trashy, tacky, demeaning, slanderous and "un-university" like,” said SDSU grad student Jen Louie. “It makes me upset that people are displayed on this site and they're probably even proud of it.”

    “Seeing pictures of people who are reported as ‘fat, stupid, dumb, slutty, alcoholic, retarded, etc.’ can lead to some serious mental health issues among students as if it wasn’t bad enough. It makes me wonder "what is the limit between free speech and harassment?” she said.

    “Phi Kap will never be a top house!
    …Your party was just okay. The decorations were cool, and there was lots of alch, but half you guys are creepy and who ever gave some of you the though (sic) that it was okay not to wear a shirt!"

    – Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    On the banner of its website, CampusGossip assures its users it offers 100% anonymity. Talking with Lohan, however, he confirms that he has alerted police officers in other cities over some posts. He also said that SDSU’s police department contacted them to “help out on possible rape cases.”

    Block confirmed that SDSU’s Campus Police did contact the web site regarding a tip about an alleged victim of a sexual assault that was posted on the site but didn’t have details on the result of the investigation.

    “We’re a real police department. That might have been one lead,” said Block. “The officer may have contacted [CampusGossip] to find out who posted the information.”

    Block contends that even though officers may use the site as a resource, that most of the campus police officers had never heard of the web site.

    “yummy
    I hear T---- E------- has a big ----? Is it true? What other guys at SDSU are packin. Come on… spill it."

    – Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    Campus Gossip is growing every week, said Lohan. He described its traffic as averaging more than 100,000 visitors a month and is expecting site traffic to grow to 1 million visitors per month next fall based on anticipated features and promotions. They include a Facebook application offering the “best of” the site easily on their profiles, the ability for users to vote off content they don’t like and a national contest looking for the sexiest student body in the country.

    If SDSU grad student Brendan Dennis is correct, the trend of voyeurism the site helps feed will find itself an outlet even if CampusGossip fails to succeed.

    "It's an inevitable byproduct of the Internet era and the constantly connected attitude and the lack of concern for one's own privacy of the college-aged generation,” Dennis said.

    “If the site got shut down today, another one would spring up to take its place," he said.