[email protected]: The right to do vs. the right thing to do

Any­one who has browsed [email protected] quickly learns that anonymity can turn the best of us into jerks. How­ever, it also lets stu­dents share opin­ions they nor­mally wouldn’t. An open di­a­logue held on Tues­day as part of the on­go­ing Words and Their Con­se­quences se­ries dis­cussed stu­dent opin­ion about the web­site, as well as on­line anonymity, cyber bul­ly­ing, ac­count­abil­ity and the fine line be­tween free speech and hate speech.

De­spite what you might think, the con­fer­ence wasn’t just a bunch of kids going around in a cir­cle com­plain­ing about bul­ly­ing. While this was dis­cussed, vocal par­tic­i­pants also showed up in favor of the forum. Sup­port­ers viewed the site as a place where peo­ple can dis­cuss cam­pus hap­pen­ings and offer views that would not oth­er­wise be stated.

And this is a valid point. Like sev­eral stu­dents said, when some­thing hap­pens, you can ei­ther wait for some­one to write an ar­ti­cle about it in a few days or you can head over to [email protected] and jump into a dis­cus­sion that’s al­ready started.

The anonymity that al­lows dis­course that open, how­ever, can cut both ways, as those with more crit­i­cal views of the site sug­gested. While it al­lows posters to share opin­ions they wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily share were it at­tached to their iden­tity, it also al­lows users to bash oth­ers with­out con­se­quence. Many times, these at­tacks can go too far and do some real dam­age, stu­dents at the dis­cus­sion said. Other peo­ple choose to spread big­otry and stereo­types (Soulja Boy any­one?).





An­other type of poster that was viewed as dis­rup­tive to an hon­est di­a­logue on the site is the troll. Trolls are users who post in­flam­ma­tory con­tent to in­cite heated ar­gu­ment or try to horde votes. These stu­dents crave the at­ten­tion of oth­ers and often don’t con­tribute any se­ri­ous con­tent. The most ef­fec­tive re­sponse for these users is to ig­nore them, ac­cord­ing to those at the di­a­logue.




The bulk of Tues­day’s forum was spent find­ing ways to help stop such mis­use of the site. Cur­rently, the rules of the site pro­hibit in­ten­tion­ally hate­ful con­tent, and a re­port func­tion is built in to let users flag those who break these rules. But, as sev­eral pointed out, there aren’t enough mod­er­a­tors to prop­erly mon­i­tor the large vol­ume of con­tent on the site, and of­ten­times these posts slip through.

Par­tic­i­pants in the forum pro­posed that more mod­er­a­tors be added to the site to help pa­trol posts and re­move the of­fend­ing con­tent. Since site mem­bers can par­tic­i­pate in clean­ing up of­fen­sive con­tent, user par­tic­i­pa­tion can also help solve the prob­lem,

De­spite dif­fer­ing opin­ions, stu­dents agreed that the site pro­vides a unique medium for di­a­logu­ing and doesn’t need to alter its core iden­tity. The con­sen­sus at the forum seemed to be that the ben­e­fits an open forum like [email protected] pro­vides eclipse how some stu­dents choose to abuse it.

Over­all, [email protected] en­ables stu­dents to dis­cuss their opin­ions rapidly and is not going to go any­where in the short-term.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Words and Their Con­se­quences se­ries.




BoredatBaker temporarily suspended

Since its return in September, BoredatBaker.com has been widely discussed among students and criticized by administrators.

The Dartmouth

Gos­sip fiends at Dart­mouth and other Ivy League in­sti­tu­tions will have to seek new venues to con­tinue their anony­mous post­ing — BoredatBaker.​com, the in­fa­mous on­line mes­sage board for Dart­mouth stu­dents, and its par­al­lel sites have been taken of­fline due to con­cerns re­gard­ing their con­tent, ac­cord­ing to an open let­ter writ­ten by Jon Pap­pas, the sites’ cre­ator.

The sites have re­cently been used by a “small group of peo­ple” to post at­tacks on spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als “in a re­peated, per­sis­tent man­ner,” Pap­pas wrote. The at­tacks in­cluded per­sonal in­for­ma­tion — such as phone num­bers and e-mail ad­dresses — and ma­li­cious state­ments, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter.

“It is clear that [Bored-at] is not ma­ture enough to mod­er­ate or con­trol it­self well,” Pap­pas said in the let­ter.

Pap­pas wrote that the Bored-at sites are not and were never in­tended to be a venue for post­ing per­sonal at­tacks.

“Since I dont [sic] have a so­lu­tion for this prob­lem right now, like I’ve done in the past, I’ve de­cided to take down the sites for the time being,” Pap­pas wrote.

Per­sonal at­tacks be­came a prob­lem for some Dart­mouth stu­dents when the site launched in 2006, The Dart­mouth pre­vi­ously re­ported.

The site was pre­vi­ously taken of­fline in 2007 after Pap­pas tried to redi­rect post­ing to a newer ver­sion of the site that never be­came pop­u­lar,but the orig­i­nal Bore­dat­Baker site was re­launched in 2009. Stu­dents brought the site to the at­ten­tion of Dart­mouth ad­min­is­tra­tors after the re­launch due to its dam­ag­ing con­tent, The Dart­mouth pre­vi­ously re­ported.

Pap­pas’ July 8 let­ter orig­i­nally stated that the sites’ focus on “ho­mo­sex­u­als look­ing for anony­mous hookups,” was an­other rea­son for the sites’ dis­con­tin­u­ance. Pap­pas later re­moved all ref­er­ences to ho­mo­sex­u­als from the let­ter.

“Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have any­thing against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity,” Pap­pas wrote in the orig­i­nal let­ter. “How­ever, its [sic] not what I in­tended to be the pri­mary focus of the site(s).”

The most com­mon top­ics of dis­cus­sion on Bore­dat­Baker are re­lated to the Greek sys­tem or are sex­ual in na­ture, The Dart­mouth pre­vi­ously re­ported.

Pap­pas pre­vi­ously told The Dart­mouth that he did not in­tend to cre­ate a gos­sip site, but that the Col­lege’s cul­ture “may turn it into that.”

Posts re­fer­ring to in­di­vid­u­als by name were more preva­lent on Bore­dat­Baker than on its cousin sites — Bore­dat­But­ler at Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity and Bore­dat­La­m­ont at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity — and Bore­dat­Baker was the most ac­tive site over­all, Pap­pas said.

The Bore­dat sites were first in­tro­duced at Co­lum­bia — Pap­pas’ alma mater — in Feb­ru­ary 2006 and came to Dart­mouth in the fall of that year.

BoredatBaker.com taken offline

BoredatBaker.​com, the pop­u­lar — and con­tro­ver­sial — on­line mes­sage board for Dart­mouth stu­dents, was taken of­fline on Dec. 8 due to an in­flux of “racist com­ments and hate speech” on the site’s sis­ter forum for Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity, BoredatButler.​com, ac­cord­ing to site cre­ator and Co­lum­bia alum­nus Jonathan Pap­pas.

Pap­pas, who cre­ated Bored-At on­line fo­rums for 11 uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try, sus­pended all of the sites.

“Re­cently, we’ve had a very small group of peo­ple ba­si­cally pa­trolling the sites post­ing racist com­ments and hate speech and they were just re­lent­less,” Pap­pas said in an in­ter­view with The Dart­mouth.

Al­though the con­tro­ver­sial com­ments were posted only by “one or two” in­di­vid­u­als on the Co­lum­bia cam­pus, Pap­pas said he de­cided to take all of the sites down to pre­vent sim­i­lar at­tacks else­where.

“I de­cided that if the pro­ject wasn’t ma­ture enough to han­dle those sit­u­a­tions, then [the sites] shouldn’t be up,” he said, stress­ing that his de­ci­sion to sus­pend the sites was not in re­sponse to any ex­ter­nal crit­i­cism.

Users who at­tempt to ac­cess any of the Bored-At sites are redi­rected to a page ex­plain­ing the sus­pen­sion of ser­vice.

Pap­pas said he plans to re­launch the sites after he makes changes to allow the var­i­ous Bored-At com­mu­ni­ties to more ef­fec­tively self-mod­er­ate. He said he is cur­rently as­sem­bling a team of stu­dents to de­velop the pro­ject, adding that he hopes to re­cruit one or two stu­dents from each in­sti­tu­tion rep­re­sented by a Bored-At site in order to gain in­sight on each cam­pus’ cul­ture.

Pap­pas said he hopes to avoid im­ple­ment­ing fil­ter­ing mech­a­nisms that would pre­vent users from post­ing cer­tain words or phrases.

“I do have a phi­los­o­phy of free speech, but not hate speech,” he said.

Al­though plans to re­work the site are still in de­vel­op­ment, Pap­pas said he might focus on im­prov­ing the sites’ “trash” func­tion, which al­lowed users to mark posts that they per­ceived as un­suit­able for a pub­lic forum. The fea­ture re­quired mul­ti­ple users to “trash” a post be­fore the com­ment was re­moved.

This func­tion could be mod­i­fied so that cer­tain types of posts are more eas­ily deleted, Pap­pas said, which may in­volve chang­ing the fea­ture so that posts with “a cer­tain type of lan­guage” re­quire fewer users to “trash” it be­fore it is re­moved. Posts by users that have pre­vi­ously had their con­tri­bu­tions “trashed” could also be made “eas­ier to trash,” he said.

“The goal is to make [the Bored-At sites] de­mo­c­ra­t­i­cally mod­er­ated so that the le­git­i­mate users can han­dle the one or two anom­alies that try to ruin it for every­one else,” Pap­pas said.