UAF Confessions harbors hate speech

Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
April 23, 2013

Editor’s note: this story contains explicit language expressed by users of the UAF Confessions Facebook Page.

A screen shot of the UAF Confessions submissions page where users anonymously enter statements that are reposted on the UAF Confessions Facebook community page.

The most recent incarnation of the UAF Confessions page instructs users to “Tell us all your deepest, darkest UAF secrets, or whatever else you want the world to know,” on its Google Form submission page.  The Facebook community page with 575 “likes” hosts anonymously submitted “confessions” reposted by the page administrator whose identity remains unknown. The page follows a similar format to the UAF Compliments page where students and community members have posted anonymous compliments to each other.

Though some posts serve as an open discussion for Facebook users to offer advice, discuss relationships and commiserate about college experiences, other posts could have been perceived as harmful by Facebook users.

Female Student Singled Out

On Tuesday Apr. 16, the UAF Confessions page administrator posted a “confession” that crossed the line for some of its audience. The post read, “Like if you’ve fucked Liz Wallace. Comment if it was a 3 some!” The post immediately received criticism from users surprised that the page administrator would allow the sexually explicit content targeted at UAF communications student and graduate teaching assistant Liz Wallace.

“This seems pretty close to some form of libel or slander…” wrote Fairbanks resident Zachery Howdeshell.

Geology student Ephy Wheeler also commented on the post, and later called the page a forum for “anonymous hate speech,” citing previous posts containing derogatory remarks about Alaska Native students.

The post was eventually taken down but not before a screen shot was taken at 1:11 a.m. on April 17.

A screen shot captured Apr. 17 at 1:11 a.m. on UAF Confessions shortly before it was removed by the administrator of the Facebook page.

A screen shot captured Apr. 17 at 1:11 a.m. on UAF Confessions shortly before it was removed by the administrator of the Facebook page.

Wallace did not know about the “confession” until a student sent her a picture of the post. “I hold no ill will to anyone that has created this page or message, but it did make me stop think: Here I am, a graduate student at UAF with so much to feel good about in my life, and an anonymous person calls me out on a UAF public forum for my sexuality,” Wallace said in reflection. “Mostly, I think it is interesting that calling out a woman for her sexual activities is still the way that men (and women) put other women down.”

Other students were more critical of the activity. “I just think the page is for cowards,” Psychology student Jacob Tigner said following the post’s removal. “The guy is trying to be Hunter Moore with the post he made and obviously that doesn’t work,” Tigner said, regarding the page administrator.

A History of Controversial Language

This is not the first “confessions” page for UAF. Last week a Facebook page bearing the same name appeared and was taken down after the presumed author allegedly received contact from the provost’s office. The purpose of the page and reasoning for removal is documented in a “manifesto” apparently written by the student. In the “manifesto,” which is linked to on the UAF Confessions page, the author takes fault for posting the “confession” which caused the previous page to be shut down. According to the manifesto, it read, “I am disgusted by the native population in Fairbanks.” The author described post as achieving the discussion they hoped for, “The post revealed tensions that are not completely racist in nature and that, again, I do not think should be ignored.”

Though some users were upset with the content of the Tuesday night’s post, it wasn’t the first time UAF Confessions took on topics that could be considered offensive. Past posts explored potentially harmful themes including violence against women, assumptions about the LGBT community and sexualized statements about female students.

A screen shot captured on Apr. 17, 2013 shows Facebook user Nick Brenner instructs the poster to punch their pregnant roommate in the stomach.

A screen shot captured on Apr. 17, 2013 shows Facebook user Nick Brenner instructs the poster to punch their pregnant roommate in the stomach.

Screen shot captured on Apr. 17 targets “poor girls who don’t know how to pay for college.”

 

Screen shot captured on Apr. 17 trivializes bisexuality.

 

Screen shot from UAF Confessions page names a UAF female student while insinuating wanting to have sexual relations with her.

 

A screen captured April 17 describes females students as sexually promiscuous.

Frequent page commenter, Justice student Joshua Mattacchione  doesn’t believe any of the posts are offensive but did think the Tuesday night post should have been removed. “I think the post was far too personal of an attack to be posted,” Mattacchione wrote in a Facebook message. “It honestly doesn’t even fit the criteria of a confession,” he wrote in a Facebook message.  “It is asked the audience to confess, which isn’t the point of the posts.”

The Price of Anonymity and Censorship

Some may wonder if any of the submissions are vetted and according to  the page administrator, some are.

“A few submissions are thrown out without ever being posted, but others make it through and ‘start fires,’” said the page creator, who has been identified as a male UAF student in two separate Facebook messages. “Initially it was feared by fans that censoring posts would result in a ‘watered down‘ version of the original,” he said. “These will normally be left alone unless it’s specifically requested that they be removed, in which case they’re deleted as soon as possible.”

When asked why he could not reveal his identity, the administrator said the site could not function without anonymity on both ends. “The anonymous format allows the community to offer their input on things which would normally be kept very private – or worse, never expressed at all,” he said.

Mattacchione agrees, “The admin needs to remain anonymous for the page to work.”

But when names are named, Wallace believes that the anonymity of the page is called into question. “I think that the idea of an anonymous page is an interesting and beneficial concept, however the moment my name appeared on that page, it was no longer anonymous,” she said. “I am thankful that I live in the United States of America where I do not have to fear that my father and brothers will be honor killing me later tonight due to this public post.”

The page administrator who believes the net effect of the site has been positive, does not expect the page to be shut down for any reason.  ”The possibility of pressure from University officials has been discussed regarding certain offensive content and the fact that the page has the University’s name attached, but the level of concern about any sort of official regulation is currently very low,” he said.

“The only thing I’d really want UAF officials to know is that I’m extremely open to their input. If there’s something about it they don’t like, I’d appreciate it if they’d contact me to discuss the matter,” said the page creator can be reached directly through the UAF Confessions Facebook page messages.

Through the experience Wallace remains unfazed by the anonymous dig directed at her. “I would be offended if someone commented that I was not a good instructor, that my thesis defense was not strong, that I am not a good friend, or that I am lacking intellectually,” Wallace said. “It’s 2013 and the most hurtful comment that this anonymous person could come up with was the fact that I have sex? This does not offend me.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You may also like...

26 Responses

  1. Casey Brown says:

    “Screen shot from UAF Confessions page names a UAF female student while insinuating wanting to have sexual relations with her.”

    Question: Why is it important that this happened to a *female* student? If a similar thing were written about a male student would it be okay? I have seen many such posts on confessions / compliments. Are they not noteworthy because they were about males? It seems we have a double-standard here.

  2. Nick Mardeusz says:

    Dude or chick who posted that’s a coward and I challenge him or her to to say it to Liz’s face, or mine for that matter. Only cowards remain anonymous when insulting someone, especially a nice, intelligent girl like Liz. What are you afraid of…? Come get some fool! As for the site administrator… You’re fired homie! As the administrator of an anonymous site you are supposed to screen the material for anonymity. The second you saw someones name you should have declined the opportunity to post it. Need i say anything more than: cowards…?

  3. Nick Mardeusz says:

    P.S. Great article Annie! Get ’em…

  4. Jon Quinones says:

    Good point Casey, it seems the only hate speech worth writing about is when it’s directed towards women eh? There were plenty of effd up things said about men on that page too.

  5. Vincent Castro says:

    I posted a comment when I saw this on facebook but I guess I posted it in the wrong place because it was ignored. I would love to see these articles that Casey is talking about if they have not been deleted already. If there is such a rediclous hypocracy, as is present in many media outlets, then I would love to see both side of this issue.

    Another issue I have is just with the quote from Liz Wallace and if this is not also hate speech by stating, “I am thankful that I live in the United States of America where I do not have to fear that my father and brothers will be honor killing me later tonight due to this public post.”. I mean is this not a great jab at Muslims since this lingo of “honor killing” (which I have not seen any link to any sort of islamic text stating anything about a “honor killing” but have seen other things about such issues) is reference to them and their culture? Also, making it seem like this doesn’t happen in America is rediculous. I mean I could go on to say yes the majority of those who want to do this sort of “honor killing” are Muslim but this is not just a Muslim issue or just a non-US issue. If it is not killing (of so called “sluts”), it is atleast people placing them in the “slut” category and them being rediculed and abused due to just expressing their sexuality and this is in America by both religious groups and non-religious groups.

    Just my opinion, please prove me wrong if I am.

  6. Andrew Sheeler says:

    I’m getting fairly tired of this “What about the menz!?” meme.

    Look, things have context. There’s nobody saying that it’s acceptable to say degrading things to or about men.

    But there’s context.

    And until you can show me that there’s a systematic, nation-wide, culturally condoned undertone of antipathy and derision directed at men in the same way that there is against women, I’m not going to take your argument seriously.

    Again, derogatory remarks toward men are not cool, but also are not as widespread or as cancerous as the undertone of misogyny on display at UAF Confessions.

    Check your privilege.

  7. Jon Quinones says:

    Oh so just because it’s not the same it doesn’t merit being taken seriously? That’s pretty narrow minded. You don’t need to show a systematic anything, hispanic people are discriminated against everyday, should my people not be taken seriously simply because black people have it worse than us?

    Get some sense.

  8. Jon Quinones says:

    I agree, didn’t catch that at first.

  9. Ephy says:

    Jon, I think you’re agreeing with the point of the article- you said it yourself. “There were plenty of effd up things said about men on that page too.” I also agree with you, there have been numerous citations of hate speech on the UAF Confessions page.
    This article wasn’t written with the intent of spreading femdom lashings throughout the internet. Examples used for the intent just happen to display sexism. Earlier posts from the deleted page (Provost’s orders) had many instances of racism and other inappropriate material.

    Point being, don’t post distasteful remarks on the internet unless you’re ready shout them out to a room full of people.

  10. Nick Mardeusz says:

    I should have never checked the tab that sends me comment updates… Now i have no choice but to respond to these ridiculous comments…

    Do yourself a favor and stop talking dude, you too Vincent. The article isn’t about any of those other issues. It’s about derogatory comments on a website that shouldn’t exist. Just because the article is about one of the individual derogatory issues doesn’t mean it’s downplaying the rest. No one is saying those other issues aren’t taking seriously. The story was formed based on the comments aimed at one individual girl so that’s what the contextual information will be related to, use your head… There are only facts put into this article it’s not some conglomerate media plan to create bias. What are you even suggesting…? That they should rewrite the article and find examples of men being put down? Grow up dude. If you use logic you would make the reasonable assumption that there are probably all types of derogatory remarks, aimed at a number of different groups of students, on the site. The point of the article is that the site is not utilized as advertised, the administrator is a punk and there are some extremely distasteful people at UAF.

  11. Casey Brown says:

    My point, Andrew, is that if you look for sexism you will find it. The article makes it seems as if the individual in question had something sexual written about her because she is female when in reality she had something written about her because someone feels sexually attracted to her.

    If / when these things are written about males they are expected to be considered compliments and it would be “unmanly” to complain about such a thing.

    But when they are written about an individual that happens to be female, it happened because of sexism.

  12. Jon Quinones says:

    The problem is that they AREN’T all facts. That’s the point, they singled out someone and interpreted what his words meant. That is not the same as facts. Like I’ve said before, it’s not ok to single one person out if your point is a general one and it is not ok to take statements from the other people referred to by name and not the only guy with a bolded comment. Yes the page has negative effects as well as positive, that’s not being disputed. But you should not cite someone specifically in a piece like this without giving them a chance to make a statement like wallace and the other guy.

  13. Jon Quinones says:

    I agree that it is messed up, yes. But I posted my main point in response to Nick above me. That is all I’m trying to say.

  14. Andrew Sheeler says:

    Poor analogy. Both blacks and Hispanics are victims of widespread racism and oppression. The same cannot be said for both men and women. Sorry to knock down that straw man of yours.

    I said it before, I’ll say it again: Nobody said the sexist things about men are ok. Nobody.

    But sorry, you don’t get to play the victim card. In the greater context, abusive and misogynistic things said to and about women cause greater harm because they are rooted in a pernicious rape culture. Therefore, they merit greater outrage.

    Again, I say check your privilege.

  15. Jon Quinones says:

    First off it wasn’t my argument, I was simply agreeing with the poster. And if you think that you obviously have not seen how easy it is for a woman to ruin a man’s career in the military. I’ve seen friends get sent to the brig without investigation simply at the cry of rape. No evidence, nothing. It’s not always so black and white. Having experienced this in the Marines, I saw that guy’s point. I didn’t say anyone said anything was ok, maybe you should learn to read with comprehension. My only point has been reiterated has nothing to do with playing victim. The sun star reporter should not have written an article about someone being singled out and then single someone out in it and unlike the rest that were interviewed, not ask him for a statement. That’s all I’m saying.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article. With digital communication becoming ubiquitous, the lines between anonymity and personal interaction on the internet are starting to blur.

    How many steps removed from being face to face with someone do you have to go before the callous sense of humor that the internet has adopted becomes appropriate? The “punch her in the stomach” comment would be completely unacceptable in any sort of face to face interaction where the subject was present; but would be considered commonplace and even harmless in a typical online forum like gamespot or reddit where the woman in question might be thousands of miles away and completely unknown.

    However, since this isn’t just a public message board, but one specific to the UAF the barriers of anonymity are much weaker. The pregnant woman in question could easily read the comment. Even if the commenter didn’t intend any real harm his post is no longer just out there on the internet somewhere for lowbrows to laugh at (myself included), it’s much closer to home, can be read by real people, and has real consequences.

    I suspect that we as a species are going to encounter more of these clashes between reality and the internet as we move into the future where connected technology and social media become even more ingrained into our lifestyles.

    Also, I want to point out that posting something potentially offensive with your Facebook account is painfully stupid. Seriously, do people not realize that it has your name and picture right there on everything you post? Duhhhh!

  17. Nick Mardeusz says:

    Ok, First of all you have completely changed your argument from when this first started and your current argument is even worse and less intelligent and doesn’t even deserve a response…

    But I’ll give you one anyway… In list form.
    1. These are the facts. There is nothing about this article that is untrue and no opinion has been injected in it by the author. Give me an example if you think otherwise.
    2. If you think there is any other way that statement can be interpreted please tell me.
    3. Even if the statement could be reinterpreted it is still abusive in some form. You can’t ask a community who has had sex with a named individual on whats supposed to be an anonymous site. If you think that’s OK then you need to check your routes homie.
    4. Are you really so naive that you think that the author of the article wouldn’t want a statement from that guy or girl!? He or she is ANONYMOUS dude! No one knows who he or she is and if he or she wasn’t such a coward he would step forward. The author of the article, Annie, would love to interview that guy or girl to see why he or she did it. IF he really wanted to defend him or herself in the story he or she would post it on here in the comments section don’t you think? He has no defense he’s guilty of hate speech bro.

    How do you know its a guy who made that statement…? I’m starting to think it was you dawgy… or Casey Brown down there :p

    Don’t waste your time responding dude you already look very unintelligent and I’m done arguing with someone who is just arguing to argue.

  18. Nick Mardeusz says:

    You are making a strong and specific assumption there that it was written about her because “someone feels sexually attracted to her.” How would you know that unless it was you or you know the person who did it?

    Even if that’s true dude do you think that’s an appropriate or acceptable way to express your feeling for a woman. If you do, you need some learnin’ boy. Get some! I love having arguments with you guys, it’s so easy!

  19. Jon Quinones says:

    If you thought I was referring to the guy talking about Liz Wallace then you have no idea what I was talking about. I was referring to Nick Brenner’s bolded comment. Maybe you should have asked for clarification instead of being a presumptuous jackass. You should really read more carefully as I point out I’m talking about the bolded comment frequently.

  20. Nick Mardeusz says:

    Even worse argument…

  21. Jon Quinones says:

    It’s actually not. everyone named in the article was allowed to make a statement but him. There are professors who agree that was not an ethical form of journalism and my neighbor back home (a lawyer) said it’s playing with the line between writing and libel. They forced an interpretation on his words and printed it as fact without offering him the same time the other named people got in the article.

  22. Casey Brown says:

    For the record Nick I was just talking about the “Screen shot from UAF Confessions page names a UAF female student while insinuating wanting to have sexual relations with her.” student whose name was redacted.

  23. Jon Quinones says:

    I’m done too, there’s no point in continuing anymore. But articles written like these are the reason people don’t take journalism seriously or to be more specific, this “newspaper.”

  24. Lexi Miller says:

    I am embarrassed to have graduated from an institution that not only condones hate speech, but facilitates it as well. Shame on you, UAF and UAF Confessions.

    P.S. Objectification is ANTIQUATED. Grow up.

  25. S.M. Stirling says:

    A), yeah, that’s offensive and profoundly dumb; B) yes, he has a perfect right to be as offensive and dumb as he wants. You have a right to call him a jerkass, and that’s it.

  26. Answer: Women are raped & suffer violence disproportionately in our society. Resorting to elementary-school language of injustice is simplistic and ignores the reality of different experiences for women and men in our society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *