The Sweet Addiction of Gossip

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    College students caught naked or partying, and it's all there for the world to see.

    Not all college students are spending their time binge drinking or complaining about the lack of jobs. Apparently, a lot of them are enjoying the sweet addiction of gossip.

    Like many vices, the practice of spreading stories -- true and otherwise -- has been turbocharged on the web.

    Spend a few minutes on CampusGossip.com, look through its images, gossip and rankings, and you'll soon realize it's an online version of "Mean Girls" for Greeks.

    In Lance Lohan's business venture, users create the content. Anything can be said, about anybody.

    Lohan, a 23-year-old USC graduate, is one of the founders of the site that launched in 2007 for college students to share their experiences with one another. The site is based in Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz.

    "Fatties in Bottom Houses
    Stop wearing your derby days shirts around campus, you are embarrassing us. thanks"

    -- Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    Most of the content is sexual. Many of the photos appear to be sexting images.

    For example, when we clicked on the link "Pics & Vid," the first image that popped up was one showing a half-naked woman taking her own picture in the mirror. The caption calls her "Sarah" and describes how "she met the guy who she cheated on my best friend with."

    Whoever posted the image warns, "You may want to think twice before you send pictures to guys, Sarah."

    Uploading an image takes only seconds and you don't need the subject's permission to post the image. That could explain the images of girls naked or half-naked posing on beds, in hallways or even on boats.

    The user is informed their image will be uploaded in a few days. Lohan said the images go into a database and are examined by a staff of interns to check for minors in the photos. He didn't go into specifics on how the site ensures the subjects in the photos are 18 and older.

    Staffers also keep an eye out for anything Lohan considers inappropriate.

    "Some people can put up some really sick stuff," he said.

    Lohan said the site has never been sued. There are no records of civil lawsuits filed against CampusGossip.com or Lohan in San Diego or Los Angeles counties.

    "As far as the laws go," Lohan said. "Does a college kid really want to spent that much money?"

    If a user sends CampusGossip a note asking nicely to remove a photograph, they usually comply Lohan said.

    "The people who try and threaten us," he said. "We usually don't want to take it down."

    "Lauren D-----
    Girl, I'm trying to look out for you and I know NO ONE has the balls to tell you to your face… but the blonde hair is a no go. YOUR HAIR IS ORANGE RIGHT NOW! ORANGE!"

    -- Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    Some students question where free speech ends and hate begins.

    "At first glance, it looks trashy, tacky, demeaning, slanderous and 'un-university' like," said San Diego State University grad student Jen Louie. "It makes me upset that people are displayed on this site and they're probably even proud of it."

    "Seeing pictures of people who are reported as fat, stupid, dumb, slutty, alcoholic, retarded, etc., can lead to some serious mental health issues among students, as if it wasn't bad enough. It makes me wonder, what is the limit between free speech and harassment?" she said.

    "Phi Kap will never be a top house!
    …Your party was just okay. The decorations were cool, and there was lots of alch, but half you guys are creepy and who ever gave some of you the though (sic) that it was okay not to wear a shirt!"

    -- Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    On the banner of its website, CampusGossip assures its users it offers 100 percent anonymity. Talking with Lohan, however, he confirms that he has alerted police officers in other cities over some posts. He also said that SDSU's police department contacted them to "help out on possible rape cases."

    SDSU spokesman Greg Block confirmed that campus police did contact the website regarding a tip about an alleged victim of a sexual assault that was posted on the site but didn't have details on the result of the investigation.

    "We're a real police department. That might have been one lead," said Block. "The officer may have contacted (CampusGossip) to find out who posted the information."

    Block feels the site puts the students and the university in a bad light.

    "It's a raunchy, ridiculous website," said Block. "We are a free speech campus. Students are able to do and post whatever they want. It's unfortunate they feel the need to post things there."

    Block contends that even though officers may use the site as a resource, that most of the campus police officers had never heard of the website.

    "yummy
    I hear T---- E------- has a big ----? Is it true? What other guys at SDSU are packin. Come on… spill it."

    -- Anonymous post on CampusGossip.com

    Campus Gossip is growing every week, said Lohan. He described its traffic as averaging more than 100,000 visitors a month and is expecting site traffic to grow to 1 million visitors per month next fall, based on anticipated features and promotions. They include a Facebook application offering the "best of" the site easily on user profiles, the ability for users to vote off content they don't like and a national contest looking for the sexiest student body in the country.

    Campus Gossip incorporates more than 1,600 schools, including such local schools  as Santa Clara University, San Jose State, USF and more.