Facebook confession pages are seemingly everywhere. What started as a trend in the United States earlier in January this year has entrenched itself in the South African social media space, with university Facebook confession pages for every major South African institution now in existence.
Facebook confession pages are merely Facebook pages – different to personal profiles and specifically for any interest or special group. These ‘confession’ pages are public, and the stream of updates is anonymous and untraceable. [pullquote]A constant feed of relationship problems, embarrassing confessions, and institutional slander.[/pullquote]
The administrators of these pages have found a loophole that protects the identity of the posters by directing people to a separate web page outside Facebook that contains a form for a confession submission.
This allows anyone (not even those affiliated with the universities) to submit whatever they want anonymously via email to the administrators. These posts are then uploaded by the administrators who may, at their own discretion, filter out content or amend them.
The result is a constant feed of relationship problems, embarrassing confessions, and institutional slander.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits University (Wits) have responded to articles printed in the Cape Times and The Star individually, with both press releases distancing the institutions from these pages.
UCT highlighted the issue with anonymity of the posts and reminds readers that confessions may be false. UCT also noted that the administrators of the page are filtering out hate speech and defamation but made no reference to any action they might take.
Wits is actively monitoring the page for any infringements of its policies and would take any necessary action. Wits also recognises that these pages are a “form of expression” and that the university has not received any complaints from students or staff regarding this page.
The reality is, given the current method in which these confession pages operate, both institutions are powerless to act. However, should any of the posts violate any of Facebook’s own content standards, it can be shut down. In an apparent response to keeping within these standards, the Wits confession page includes a code of conduct by the page’s administrators, and current confessions even obfuscate swear words.
As with many things on the Internet, this may turn out to be just a fad. With the novelty wearing off, some posters are running out of original content. But never fear, as someone on the internet is always watching to keep you on the straight and narrow:
This is meant to be a page for original material, not cut and paste jobs you got from Tumblr. Looking at you, Confession 1875.