Curious about the “Biggest Boobs on Campus” or “the most effective way to get high on xanax/valium”? Before its disappearance this summer, the Wesleyan Anonymous Confessions Board (WesACB) would have been the place to look.
From 2000 until 2015, the WesACB served as a central hub for questions, opinions, and gossip about campus. Although intended for Wesleyan students, anyone with an Internet connection could contribute anonymously.
Posts ranged from humorous to deeply hurtful, such as the initials threads often used to slut-shame specific students. For example, someone would start a thread with the initials of their crush, and others would comment revealing details about that person.
However, it was easy to identify the targets of these threads because of the small size of the student body. Anonymous posters also frequently mentioned students’ full names.
One alumnus, who asked to remain anonymous, remembers being singled out on one of the initials threads.
“When my initials were brought up on the crush thread, I didn’t think too much of it,” the alumnus said. “When I checked again a few days later, I saw that many of the comments below my initials were opinions on me, and they were awful.”
Because of this negative tone, the WesACB has been the subject of multiple controversies, especially as it has changed ownership over the years. The site first emerged as part of the CollegeACB network, created in 2008 by Aaron Larner ’08 and Andrew Mann, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.
CollegeACB began at Johns Hopkins University and soon spread to Wesleyan, Oberlin, Dickinson, and many other universities. Ultimately, Larner and Mann found the sites less enjoyable to run and difficult to maintain with their real-life jobs. The pair found a successor in Peter Frank ’12, who became responsible for the WesACB as well as the entire CollegeACB network.
Frank was initially interested in running the ACB because of its popularity among students and its usefulness as discussion space on larger campuses. In fact, Frank says, the site was designed to foster meaningful dialogue.
“What a lot of people don’t remember is that at some point the ACB was used somewhat productively,” Frank said. “The vast majority of the content was actually legitimate questions.”
The dynamic of the WesACB changed after it became a subset of JuicyCampus, a site with a reputation for being slanderous and filled with hateful gossip. After signing a deal that redirected all of JuicyCampus’ traffic to the CollegeACB, Frank struggled to maintain the vibe of the WesACB.
“Bullying was not very present until around January 2009,” Frank said. “After JuicyCampus took over, the nature of the site became libelous and more mean-spirited.”
Shortly afterwards, Frank lost interest in managing CollegeACB and sold it to Blipdar. Once under Blipdar, the WesACB and rest of the CollegeACB were quickly shut down because of inactivity.
In the summer of 2011, the WesACB reemerged under a new domain, wesacb.net. The creator was identified by a Wesleying article as a rising senior, who otherwise preferred to remain anonymous.
The new moderator planned to remove “personal attacks” and preserve the site as “an extraordinarily entertaining, often hilarious platform for students’ voices,” according to the Wesleying interview.
Yet by the following year, the WesACB had once again become a center for hate speech. After the controversial ‘Diversity University’ forum in November 2012, the WesACB was used as a platform for racial slurs and outing members of secret societies on campus.
Because wesacb.net’s creator could not be reached for comment, it’s difficult to know exactly when or why the latest version of the WesACB shut down this summer. Frank speculated that Yik Yak, an app launched in December 2013, simply displaced the WesACB in popularity on campus.
While Yik Yak is similar to the WesACB in allowing users to contribute anonymously, posts are limited to 200 characters and can be up- or down-voted by others. To protect users’ privacy, submissions containing names or addresses are usually removed.
Maimouna Siby ’16 sees the app as a major improvement over the WesACB.
“[Yik Yak’s] design looks so much more appealing than the WesACB’s ever did,” Siby said. “It also seems to be a bit more positive [in tone] than the ACB so far.”
In fact, Siby believes that Yik Yak’s success has eliminated the need for a new WesACB.
“I doubt that a new anonymous confessions board will start up this year,” Siby said. “So many people use Yik Yak now.”