Destroying Reputations: as easy as ACB
“The College ACB, 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.” So reads the mission statement of http://collegeacb.com/, an online discussion board by and for college students nationwide. The website was created in 2009 by Peter Frank of the Polytechnic School. Though he recently sold his share in ‘ACB,’ Frank owned and operated the site for two years, building it into the success it is today.
As the mission statement says, ACB lets students discuss issues they find relevant to their schools or peers. The site is organized by school, and within each school’s page, it is broken up into four categories: Advice, Sex, Issues, and Academics. Threads in the Tufts “Advice” category range from “I Need Advice Before Matriculation” to “Shavin’ the Ol’ Pubes.” The “Issues” section, meanwhile, contains posts on laundry, referenda 3 and 4, and “Fat Bitches on Campus.”
The ACB official blog reads, “ACB consistently hosts a higher level of discourse—while still making room for the occasional gossip post.” It’s true that on Tufts’ ACB, most posts are questions or opinions on campus issues. Some posts, though, target specific people or groups, and some have extremely hostile statements, such as, “I hate you” and “I’m going to kill you.”
While posts like these may not be considered “gossip,” they are undeniably negative. In talking with students whose names have appeared on the website, reactions to posts vary. One student, Katie*, said the website can “make [people] feel attacked,” but can “also be a positive self-esteem booster, depending on the tone of the comment.” Katie, who had positive and negative comments written about her, said that when she found out she was on the website, her first reaction was, “Cool, people know my name.”
Another student named on the site, Charlotte*, had a very different initial reaction to the post about her. She says, “I was extremely hurt…I did not like that someone I knew thought this about me, [or] that someone who didn’t know me could have seen me walking around and made an assumption about my character.” She wishes the site would be shut down, explaining, “We’re supposed to be supporting each other and growing and learning from each other, which can’t happen in a negative and judgmental environment.”
Right now, the site is down for maintenance, as the new management is making some changes. Chances are good, though, that ACB won’t be shut down permanently, since its popularity only seems to be growing. Even if ACB does remain active, students upset by the site can get posts removed. However, a request for removal must cite a specific post, not a whole thread, and the post in question must be related to an individual, not an organization. So students who take offense to comments can usually get those comments removed, which is an important feature of the site.
There are certain individuals, though, whose names come up on Tufts’ ACB repeatedly, and few of these people are reviewed positively. Why such hostility? It could be that, as Katie puts it, “In theory, [ACB] is a good way to promote free speech, but [the Tufts] campus takes advantage of that.” She added that in her opinion, posters are “people who are not confident to voice their opinions publicly and take responsibility for their comments.” If Katie is correct in this assumption, then College ACB is inherently a negative site, encouraging students to hide behind anonymity. On the other hand, being freed from recognition could allow more honest discussion among peers. Whatever harm or good it does, ACB certainly gives Tufts students something to talk about—and a forum on which to talk about it.
*Names have been changed