College Gossip Crackdown: Chelsea Gorman Speaks Out

"'Coming out' is a decision that is very personal and something that each individual has to decide. To have that decided for you, I mean, I can't even imagine what that would be like," Sparrow said.

Although Sparrow has never experienced hostility in person on campus, he says the anonymity of the site brings it out.

"People feel a social responsibility in person. On campus they don't feel behind the anonymity of a computer screen, and that's a problem we have to fix," he said.

Even worse, says Sparrow, Ivester was an out gay student at Duke.

"A past Duke student, an out, gay male, president of a fraternity," Sparrow said of Ivester. "The guy had the world in the palm of his hand and this is what he came up with, and that's really depressing to me."

The Duke administration contacted Ivester, asking him to take down certain posts and better monitor what was being said.

Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs at Duke, said he asked a staff member who knew Ivester to see whether "there was some willingness to mitigate some of the extreme comments. The response I got back pretty quickly was that was not something he was willing to do."

Moneta said if he ever ran into Ivester he'd ask, "What are you thinking?"

'They Cannot Live Their Lives'

The site implores its users to post "juicy" items, and even explains how to avoid defamation on an accompanying video blog page.

JuicyCampus.com assures users over and over again that they will remain anonymous and that Ivester is immune to being held accountable.

Legally, Ivester can do whatever he wants with the site, short of allowing school threats.

"The communications Decency Act of 1996, which says that the Web site owner is fully immune from liability from anything, for anything that is posted there by a third party," said Michael Fertik, founder of Reputation Defender, a company dedicated to helping people clear their names on the Web.

Since Juicy Campus was launched, his company has been contacted by a dozen students and parents asking for his help in getting comments taken off the site.

Juicy Campus, however, rarely removes anything, and there is little Fertik can do.

"We've heard from people who feel that they cannot live their lives, feel that they cannot go to class," Fertik said. "I am aware of a student who has taken time off from school."

Mary Hannah Ellis, also a Duke student, was devastated after reading untrue postings saying that she stalks people, that she has tried to commit suicide and that she is bipolar. She left school for three weeks.

"I felt I was not being accepted here at school and maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn't change. That maybe I shouldn't be here," said Ellis, who eventually returned to Duke and is determined to not let the site get to her again.

Fertik said, "There's a strong sort of theological idea that slander is worse than death, because it's death over and over for the rest of your life, right?"

Striking Back

Short of asking Ivester to take down posts, there's little Fertik and the thousands of other students maligned on Juicy Campus can do. That's why Anne Millgram, the attorney general of New Jersey, has taken a stand.

"We believe that they're engaged in unconscionable business practices and deceptive business practices, and we would seek to stop them from doing that in the state," said Millgram.

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